Spring Came Early Tonight

Sometimes you cannot guess how your evening will go, especially when you live in a community house. For our Monday family meal, we made pizzas together for dinner, then afterwards planted parsley, chives, and sweet basil into small pots to grow from seed on our kitchen windowsill. The feeling of earth on my fingers while planting seeds almost smaller than the eye could see, into little holes of earth, and covering them safely with some damp loose soil, felt invigorating and healing, and made me wish for Spring even more. I didn’t know how much I needed the healing of that one small moment. The sense of new things growing and the anticipation of seeds sprouting under the soil were welcome images after a long winter. We then sat in the warm glow of candles, drinking tea, and settling in for the evening with a show and some snacks.

Around 8 pm, there was a soft rap on the door. And then another. I was worried it was a friend looking for my company, and to be honest, after a very long and busy week, I needed a mental and social break, and wanted some quiet and rest, so I asked my housemates to answer the door. Just this once, I didn’t want to be available. Just this once, I didn’t have the energy to care for someone else. I wanted to hide away and not be found.

It was Sharon at the door. A woman we know from drop-ins at Sanctuary, one who chatters so much you can’t help but smile, who tells stories from her life with brutal and beautiful honesty, and who has such a large heart for others. Even when she feels lost and lonely and the ill effects of a tough world on the streets, she still manages to make you feel like you are the most special person in her life, and that her stories are for you, and you only.

Sharon is homeless, goes to the shelter every night at 9 pm to get a bed, and never knows where she will spend her days, or how she will stay dry and safe, and not be hungry. As she told me tonight, she has a “very tough life, but can’t complain” because she was just happy and grateful that she has a warm bed each night.

Tonight Sharon came into the living room with an urgent energy and sat down on a kitchen chair, shoes still on, jacket still done up, bag of clothes in her hands clutched to her chest. I offered her tea, but she said no. She talked quickly, telling us it was raining, that she was on the street from 7:30 am until 9 pm–a very long and hard day. She was headed back to the shelter hoping to get a bed, but it was raining, and she had left her brand-new coat that she got today from Sanctuary London with a friend, as it was so special to her that she was worried it would get lost or wrecked. Therefore, she asked me, “would you give me a ride over to the shelter tonight, so I won’t get wet in the rain?”

Suddenly, looking into her big eyes with their twinkle of love and her worry about walking in the dark rain so she could get a bed, all of my tiredness went away. My hope to be alone and rest, and not socialize with whomever was at the door, was gone in an instant. All I wanted was to be with her. “Of course, Sharon, I will drive you. Of course.”

When we arrived at the shelter in the wet, dark, empty parking lot, Sharon was the best host in the world, welcoming me to her space and treating our time together like she was honouring the Queen with a tour of her very own home. The tricky part was that the shelter was locked until 9 pm, so instead she walked me around the outside of the whole building, looking into the various windows with me, and from her imagination and memory, told me about every activity, every space, every nook and cranny, so that I could see it and feel it right along with her. She didn’t live there, but for tonight it was her home, and she had trusted me and invited me in. While we waited together for the doors to open, she shared her heart, gave me a big hug, and loved me through her words, telling me how very blessed I would be for caring for her.

The blessing was all mine, I told Sharon. All mine. God was indeed loving me through her.

And between the lovely dinner, the planting of herb seeds, the soft rain, the candlelight, and then the beautiful love and welcome that I received from Sharon even in the midst of a rainy day where her biggest hope was a warm bed for a few hours, I knew that my heart had been replanted; new seeds were sprouting, and Sharon reminded me that the watering would come when I least expected it.

I had spent the evening thinking about how I was waiting for Spring. Sharon showed me that Spring was already here.

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Some stories from home, some from travel adventures (usually in autumn), some happening in community, friendship and faith, and some about the vulnerable, lonely and excluded. To honour them because they have changed me for the better and taught me how to love more fully and be loved more fully. Some days are great, some good, some not always good. But overall, it's been a beautiful journey so far, and I feel more like myself every day. -- Debra, writer / photographer / blogger / traveller

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