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July 29, 2018: Seeing Our Neighbors


by Terry Adlhock

I’ve volunteered around All Souls’ grounds—cutting grass, a little gardening, etc.—for several years. From time to time, and it seems more frequent in recent months, I notice folks—let’s call them “visitors”—spending time on the benches out front or in back, especially in the shady areas.  

I noticed one visitor in particular using our benches a lot, and not just in the daytime. The first few times I saw him, I just observed him and didn’t approach. But after several weeks, reflecting on the fact that each of us has a face and a story, I decided to engage a bit, and introduced myself to him. I learned his name—Donald—and a little more about him. He's in his mid-50's, African-American, and originally from Alabama. He practically lives on his cellphone (which he told me he purchased a year or so ago with money he earned through doing various odd jobs). He’s extremely thankful for our building's outside electrical outlets, which he uses to recharge the phone. Now, whenever I see Donald around the property, I say hi and we chat for a moment. Nothing intense, just a friendly exchange.

While having Donald make our garden his full-time home is not a viable solution for either him or for All Souls, I understand he has permission from Father Jadon and our wardens to rest on our inviting bench and charge his phone sometimes. We’ve provided him information about services available in our area that may help support him in the longer term; he tells us he’s also been in touch with relatives and may go stay with them if they can work out a plan.

As for me, my experience and interaction thus far with Donald have for sure made me so much more aware that all persons have faces—if only we take the time to see them, that all persons have stories—if only we take the time to listen to them.  Moreover, I have been reminded as well that I should not stay only in my personal “comfort zone” of already-known, already-made friends who mostly are just like me.  Rather, I need to work harder to meet others, especially those not like me.

Lastly, since introducing myself to Donald and seeing and listening to him just a bit, I think I'm already paying more attention to folks I see who appear to be homeless, and perhaps more than ever seeing them as fellow human beings. I guess our church’s name, “All Souls,” is resonating with me in a new way.  

Last Published: July 26, 2018 11:36 AM
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