Earlier today, Gina wrote about our experience at The Guest House in Milwaukee — the practical ways this organization is impacting the men of the community as well as the small way our team was able to step in to help. Emily is joining us this afternoon to bring a different perspective on the same experience that every mom will want to read.
When I read that LoveMKE was touring The Guest House and making sandwiches to share with their residents, I was immediately on board. My 10 year old and I are trying to volunteer together each month and I thought this would be a great opportunity.
When I told my husband, he questioned if it was a good idea to take a 10 year old girl to a men’s homeless shelter. Apparently, he had previously looked into an opportunity to serve a meal there and when he asked about bringing our kids, the organizer seemed uncomfortable and said that he wasn’t sure if it would be appropriate. He recommended that my husband should go alone the first time just in case. (In case of what, I have no idea.) My husband wasn’t able to go, but that comment stuck with him.
I couldn’t understand how helping out at a shelter might be inappropriate. It really never crossed my mind. We unfortunately see people in homeless situations fairly regularly so we’ve had many conversations about how and why people might be homeless. While I certainly teach my kids to be safe, I hope I have also passed on that there is no reason to be frightened of a person because they don’t have consistent housing. So with that mindset, we pulled up at The Guest House one evening just as the men were lining up outside.
I had explained to my daughter on the way to the Guest House that it was check in time so it might be busy. Although we had instructions to bypass the line, we chose to wait at the back of it. I didn’t want to give my daughter the impression that we were more important than any of these guys. So we waited, chatting about the new structure being built next to the Guest House. (Which turned out to be their new addition!) My daughter gave me a bit of side-eye when one of the guys in front of us said a few interesting words. I rolled my eyes right back and then accidentally bumped into the man standing in front of me. He turned around.
“You here to work?” he asked. “You don’t need to wait.”
“It’s ok,” I started to say. But he tapped the shoulder of the man in front of him and asked him to let us through. As we passed, other men called ahead and cleared a path for us all the way to the door. We were taken care of. By a group of men that someone else felt might not be appropriate for my daughter to see.
And I wondered how many families had missed out on this experience because of comments like the one my husband heard.
We would have missed learning about the fantastic programs they have at the Guest House that not only provide a bed, but offer a path for these men to a home of their own.
We would have missed seeing their community gardens, from which they grow almost 5000 lbs of produce that they share with their guests and the community around them.
We would have missed hearing that they occasionally watched movies and couldn’t wait for the next Bingo night. (It was these details my daughter most connected with – the elements of their life that was similar to ours.)
We would have missed seeing the sign that said who was providing dinner each night. We never would have known that some of the restaurants we enjoy sometimes provide dinner here.
We would have never learned that anyone in the neighborhood can ring a bell outside the front door and get a bagged lunch dropped down to them from a chute in the main office.
I could have talked to my daughter a million times about people who struggle in our city, but she would have missed seeing them with her own eyes.
And she would have missed an awesome assembly line of sandwich making – and the experience of her small hands making a big difference.
We would love to put together another sandwich-making evening for our team as well as members of our MKE Moms Blog community. Want to join us? Let us know you would like to participate and we’ll let you know when we get it scheduled!