The call came and he told me, “Dad, I’m sorry, but we will not be able to spend too much time together this Thanksgiving. As you know, everybody is leaving, going back home, and since there will not be too many of us around, I will also have to do the night shifts. I’ll have to sleep in the shelter.” My son was referring to the Harvard Square Homeless Shelter (*), the only entirely student-run shelter in the country and the only shelter in the Boston area operated entirely by volunteers.
“That’s OK, Mateus,” I told him. “We already knew that you were going to be busy. Don’t worry. Let me ask you: Can we help?”
“Well, let me see if I can fit you in the volunteer schedule. I’ll let you know.”
“Great! This will make us very happy!”
And so it was… The best Thanksgiving of our lives was spent volunteering for five days at a homeless shelter. We enjoyed our time, not only with Mateus, but also with other generous young adults who were giving of themselves for those in need.
We sat down, shared meals, and had great conversations with the guests. And it was a special treat to see my youngest son in action, coordinating volunteers, talking to the guests, solving problems, and making sure everything ran smoothly, besides giving me marching orders to wash the dishes, clean the floors, and dispose the waste. It was such a revelation! I saw a man in action, a good man for that matter, while, in the back of my head I kept asking myself, “Where’s my boy? Where did my little one go?”
Yes, I am proud, but more than that, I am grateful. My boys are so much better than I am. I have every reason to be thankful for.
Life is good. I give thanks. I’m happy.
“In daily life we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy.” ~ Brother David Steindl-Rast
(*) Every winter since 1983, the Harvard Square Homeless Shelter, staffed and directed by students at Harvard University, has provided food, housing, and a friendly, supportive environment for two dozen men and women each night during the five coldest months of the year. It is open from 7:00 P.M. to 8:00 A.M., November 15 to April 15. It offers: • Twenty-four beds each night for men and women; • Dinner and breakfast for guests, plus dinners for anyone who comes to the door needing food; • An alcohol-free, drug-free, and smoke-free environment; • Laundry and shower facilities; • Use of computer and printer. Check these two sites: http://www.hshsc.org/ & http://www.hcs.harvard.edu/~hshs/ and this 2011 article http://www.thecrimson.com/article/2011/11/28/thanksgiving-students-harvard-homeless/