I walked through the rotting door with my 3 week old baby in my arms, my husband by my side. We had left our 3 year old at home with Grandma so we could stop by and see what this place was all about; the simple email exchange of days prior had lit a flicker of hope in our desert-dry hearts. The past two years had been a lonely exile and our empty tanks were choking on fumes. We had nothing left to give but our barest bones, unsure if such fare even merited a place at the table, but sure without a doubt that we would sit under it and catch the crumbs that fell to the dirt.
It was January and cold, and I was wearing UGG boots and feeling embarrassed about it. When gaps between human beings take up space in the room, it’s nice to have something tangible to blame it on. It gives us something to look at.
I talked to Becky the longest. She was one of the few women at the house that day. She cooed over Moses and I felt my insecurities slacken at the gesture. She held him with all the tenderness of the Virgin Mary and considerately turned her head aside when her smoker’s cough attacked, which was often. I wondered if this was crossing some unwritten maternal line of protection, and should I be ashamed of myself for exposing him to this, to all of this? But my postpartum brain couldn’t even fully form the hesitations because it was so clear that this was right.
It was good and right and profitable for all three of us, and I have never once looked back because I heard a voice in my head so clearly.
It’s a gift. All of it. You to her and her to you and don’t let fear come like a thief…
(He’s 14 months now and has never had more than a cold and a lot of built up immunities.)
We fell in love with the Day House. So we went back. And we kept going back. And more quickly than we could have ever hoped it became a piece of us, this house of hospitality, this landing place for the war-torn and the lonely. We found family there; we found acceptance and laughter and folks who would shrug it off when our traumatized son kicked them in the head because they’d seen a hell of a lot more than that. We were loved, and welcomed, and we were taught new things about the world and that what is required for friendship is so much less than we think.
At the Day House almost all of our friends were homeless, some by choice and some by hard knocks. It was there that I first prayed the Stations of the Cross during Lent, and it was there that I danced with ex-convicts to the tune of a Spanish guitar. It was at the Day House that my son learned to compost, and it was there that he witnessed his first fistfight. It was beautiful and it was awful, it was simple and it was so very dramatic.
It was people, and people is exactly what we had missed.
In her autobiography “The Long Loneliness”, Dorothy Day’s closing words are these:
We know each other in the breaking of bread, and we are not alone any more… We have all known the long loneliness and we have learned that the only solution is love and that love comes with community.
I believe in love because I see evidence of it all around me.
I believe in community because for love to be real it must go forth from something, towards something.
I believe in the long loneliness because I have lived it and so have you. But that doesn’t have to be the end of our story.
I believe in fighting for love, and for community, and for breaking bread together. I believe in doing it when it hurts, when it’s hard, and when it’s inconvenient.
I believe because I have tasted and have seen, and I refuse to forget.
This story was originally published on Shannon’s blog. Check it out!