by Rev. Ron Reese, Seattle First
I’m starting to think that God sees our little shelter ministry like his playground. Really interesting people – both guests and volunteers – keep showing up to play, and once in a while God adds some new playground equipment. I stepped back for a while tonight and saw all the playing happening in the playground: of course, the regular crew had done all the set-up and fixed a great dinner – that’s bottom line stuff – but then there was homeless Phil playing background music on the piano during dinner like he always does, and there were a few men who’d just been to the Men’s Circle (sort of a sub-playground) eating together, and there were the nurses already meeting with some guys in the laundry room-turned-New-Life-Clinic, and there was Jan the Nordstrum Lady helping a guy find some clothes in the Clothes Closet, and there was the newest attraction of the playground – The Spa – where Pal and Hugh had set up their wash basins to wash and massage men’s feet, amidst candles and incense and tea. (James told me later he overheard a new shelter guy responding to someone who had just told him about The Spa, “You gotta be kidding! A shelter with a spa? That’s too much!”)
I couldn’t help but smile and shake my head as I let it sink in. And then I realized another way that the playground image works for us: kids sometimes get hurt on playgrounds and they don’t always get along. (I can remember the hurt of being chosen last to be on a kickball team when I was nine.) The core team and the core shelter community have always shown an amazing amount of respect and cooperation with one another – that’s always been true – but recently there have been a few team members who just don’t get along and who have snapped at each other and one even said he was leaving and never coming back. We feel the powerlessness of wanting community members to reconcile and get along and not being able to make it happen. We see the need to do a team training in conflict resolution skills and in dealing with difficult conversations, but even with all the skills in the world, we know we can’t make some people become willing to reconcile. Over the years, I think we’ve transitioned out of the honeymoon phase and are now in a more mature period of being a family that is learning to admit trouble and feel the pain that our life together isn’t working for everyone in the community. If you pray for us, pray for a spirit of wisdom and reconciliation and ... well … oneness (as Jesus prayed for us).