Some say, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” I get that. I won’t dispute it. But, beauty is also in the eye of the one with understanding. Looking at Family Promise from the outside, you might think it’s just another service provider. Just a program. But I’ve had the chance over the past several months to take a closer look. I’ve discovered something I didn’t see at first: Beauty.
Take the Day Center. When I first stepped inside, I saw a plain, old house. Scuffed floors. Frankly, a little dirty. In some places, it looks downright dangerous. But I’ve been here long enough to understand a little better. To see more closely. The Day Center is a home. And we all know a home is much more beautiful than a house. It’s a home because for some very real people — who didn’t have a home for a while — it represents all the things that make a home such a wonderful thing.
* Some guests were very vulnerable before they came. But at the Day Center, they’re safe. They feel safe.
* Some come here very tired — it’s exhausting to sleep in a car for a week or on a couch for a month. At the Day Center, they’ve found a place where they can rest.
* Almost all guests come with some level of fear. Many find peace at the Day Center.
* Most come dejected. Defeated. At the Day Center, they have rediscovered hope.
* And, perhaps the best of all: Connections. Friendship. People.
Can I say it: Family? Something I hadn’t really thought of before I was introduced to homelessness here is that living without a home can be lonely. How beautiful it is to see strangers enter the program and graduate as friends.
Safety. Rest. Peace. Hope. Friendship — even family. The Day Center is a home. The Day Center is beautiful.
Take Bo (not his real name). He volunteers at Family Promise. He’s tireless. He sacrifices a lot of time to serve. He couldn’t care less if anyone notices what he does. I don’t think he’d take a paycheck if it was six figures. He just wants to be a blessing to people. He simply loves being part of this thousand-person network of volunteers. He’s like a single brush stroke in a beautiful painting called “Servanthood”. Each stroke is different. Isolated they are normal, average, everyday people. Together, they are beautiful.
Take Bella (not her real name). She lived in her car for a long time. If you saw the inside of it, you’d know that. If you smelled it, you’d know for sure. If you even noticed her at all, “beautiful” would probably not be your first choice of words. But, if you understood a little — heard her story — you might think differently. If you took the time to listen to the pain and heart-break she has survived, if you saw how much strength it takes for her to keep fighting for the sake of her little girl, you might think differently. You might be surprised to discover something you thought wasn’t there at all: Beauty.
Take Calysta (not her real name). Just an ordinary kid. She’s followed her dad from place to place. Sleeping on her cousin’s couch for a while. Then at her grandmother’s for a few weeks. For a while, she slept on the floor of someone she didn’t even know. She was scared. She can’t remember ever living in their own home. Not a pretty picture.
But then they came to Family Promise.
She was scared then too. Different volunteers every night. Different church every week. But after a couple weeks she felt weird — good weird: comfortable and safe. After a couple months she heard her dad talking about an apartment and maybe getting her own room. She had heard that before, so she simply didn’t believe it. Then, one day, they emptied out their closet in the basement of the Day Center. They drove across town to an apartment building. Then, she heard her dad say something she couldn’t remember hearing before — ever. It was beautiful in her ears: “Welcome home, baby.” Her smile was so big, it must’ve hurt her face.
Most people wouldn’t be impressed by that apartment. But if you could see it through Calysta’s eyes — with eyes of understanding — you’d surely call it “Beautiful”