My First Visit to St Herman's
By Anna McCartney (daughter of Fr. Joseph McCartney)
I was in a horrible, irritable mood as my family arrived at Saint Herman’s House of Hospitality, a homeless shelter we'd been invited to. It was an ancient looking house, not much different than any other house in the aged neighborhood. It was depressing, as if joy had been sucked out of the place. It was dirty and smelled of old wood- although it was very preferable to the infamous Franklin Castle just next door. I was here at this awful place to do volunteer work, rather unwillingly. But this was the day I learned to appreciate and be grateful for what I had.
Today I had to give up my entire Saturday, one of my only two days off every week. I had begged my parents to let me stay home- which simply fueled their decision to make me come along.
As we stepped out of the car, we were greeted by a tall, rather thin man we knew as Steve, and his daughter, a girl named Nina. Both were passionate about this old homeless shelter, and with a friendly smile Steve said happily, “Thanks for coming out here to help! It really means a lot. Come inside and we’ll show you what you’re doing.”
As he led us through the old house, I could only think of what I might’ve been doing if I had just stayed home. The inside was no better than the outside; it was filled with unidentifiable smells, and dirty, annoyingly squeaky floorboards. It did nothing to help my current attitude. I was put on dessert duty with another teen perhaps a year or two my senior, who seemed to be in a mood no better than mine. He was to hand me a plate with a piece of cake on it, and I would put a cookie or two with it if someone wanted them.
Then, people were led into the large room we were in- and suddenly the mood of the entire house changed.
A large crowd of people stood in line for pasta and Swedish meatballs; my mother dished out salads; my sister and Nina were handing out bread, offering their biggest smiles as well; and finally they would come down to the desert table, when I and the other teen were, and we both seemed to be in better moods instantly.
A woman, as she passed by me, asked quietly, “Do y’all think we’ll get seconds today?...” As I quickly told her they would, her eyes lit up, thanking us once more before going to her seat.
A young girl (no older than nine years old, I supposed) asked for the cake, and two cookies as she came up to us. Two was the most we were allowed to give someone, I’d previously been told; but I ignored this, and gave her three instead, smiling as she gleefully bounded to her seat. I saw her twice more; the next time was to ask for seconds, which I happily obliged to without thinking twice; and the last time was to ask for several cookies to take home, and I gave quite a few more than I was allowed to.
The room seemed brighter with all of the people there. Everyone was happy; everyone getting a meal was happy, everyone serving the meal was happy- except for me. As I stood there watching the people around me, I realized just how selfish and rude I’d been. Moping and whining about giving up my Saturday, when there were people who had real reasons to be upset, like not having enough food to eat.
People often take things for granted; we don’t realize how easy it is to end up in the same position as those waiting in line for a meal. This experience changed how I look at my own life for the better. I once took everything for granted because I was so accustomed to it; I expected it to always be there. Now I realize that everything can change so quickly, and it’s happened to so many. I now know to acknowledge how lucky I am, and to be thankful, and grateful for what I have.~