Tonight several of the St. Columbans went to the Homeless Memorial Vigil on the steps of the Denver City and County Building. This gathering recognized all the homeless individuals that lived and died on the streets of Denver in the past year. One hundred and seventy-one names were said aloud by the event organizers and even more were called out by members of the audience. After each name was announced all participants said in unison, “we will remember.” For many of the deceased this would be the only formal recognition of their passing. By standing outside in the cold, holding a single flame, we each took the time to acknowledge each homeless person as just a person – no labels. On the day of the year with the longest night, we all experienced the dark and shared the light.
We decided to attend this event sometime earlier in the month, but ever since our house’s group therapy session last Friday, the night’s significance had been on my mind. In our session, we discussed the importance of using this year of service to challenge ourselves and how to determine which challenges are meaningful and which are not. I was opened to a new way of thinking in this conversation. For example, our year of service challenges the entire house to live a simple life, but there is a difference between simple living and suffering for suffering’s sake. Our conversation encouraged me to seek out more educational and informative experiences about poverty in America and dialogue more about these issues.
This holiday season I encourage you to not just donate used items or money to a homeless shelter, but to volunteer your time there and meet the people that frequent the establishment. Learn from them what items are desperately needed and consider donating them new; therefore, respecting the dignity of the recipients.