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Jul20WedA week on a couch gave me renewed empathy for the people I help. July 20, 2016 by Shelly McCready
This past winter, my husband and I decided to treat ourselves to a new bedroom set. We'd already made the necessary arrangements to have the furniture store deliver the new set when, without warning, our bedroom ceiling and window sprang a leak. We had no choice but to hold off on the delivery until we could rectify the situation, and camp out in our living room until the leak could be fixed.
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- Faith & Friends
The landlord sent a workman, who climbed the icy roof to try to find the problem. The report back was not good. The ice had backed up onto the roof and under the shingles. The flashing, part of the roof itself and the bedroom window needed to be replaced. One night stretched into several nights in our living room, each of us sleeping fitfully on a couch.
A Place to Go
After what seemed like forever, but was in reality only the sixth day of our vigil, I got up from another uncomfortable night's sleep not in the best of moods.
“I can't sleep on this couch much longer. I'm exhausted, stiff and sore,” I complained to my husband. “How am I supposed to go to work like this?” He said he would call the landlord and try to get some answers, and I went off to work, still cranky.
My work as community ministries co-ordinator with The Salvation Army is divided between programming and advocacy. Saint John, N.B., experiences some of the highest rates of poverty and unemployment in the country. Our Hope Café serves up to 75 people every weekday. It is the perfect segue to further assistance, especially as we gain trust through that relationship with some of the most vulnerable in our community. We are often the first place people come to for help. And if we can't help, we know who can.
That particular morning, a man came to my office. I knew him from the café but had never assisted him in any other way. He was a gentle spirit who struggled with anxiety. As we talked, he held his head at an angle. I asked if there was something wrong.
“I am having terrible spasms in my neck,” he replied. “My doctor gave me muscle relaxers for it.” He went on to explain that was the reason why he was there. He wanted to know whether I could help him get a bed. “I've been sleeping on a couch for two years.”
I immediately felt ashamed of my earlier grouchiness. Here I was complaining about sleeping on a couch for a mere week while this man had been on one for years. I quickly got in touch with this man's financial worker and, within no time, we had approval for a bed.
A few days later, my new bedroom set was delivered to my renovated room. I was even more grateful because God had gently reminded me of how blessed I am. I needed that nudge from God. I may not have walked a mile in that man's shoes, but I did sleep a week on his couch, so to speak, and that made me even more committed to doing the work I do.
Shelly McCready is the community ministries co-ordinator for The Salvation Army in Saint John, N.B., where she is deeply invested in the lives of the clients who seek services.