It’s five a.m. The sky is black and the roads are clear. The radio quietly hums the latest pop song. I’m bundled up from head to toe, embracing the slightly negative temperature as the tips of my fingers slowly begin to defrost. I drive.
I pull up to a seemingly deserted lot, park my car, and head inside. As I round the corner I see a huddle of people. Crystalized breaths form on each exhale, heads bowed down, frozen still. They’ve accepted their time in the cold. They wait.
I enter into the brightly lit kitchen. The radio full blast playing throwback hits. Cheap coffee being passed around like liquid gold and pots and pans clanging and clamoring. As I’m greeted by warm smiles, I’m instantly welcomed and ushered to join in to the hustle and bustle.
It’s breakfast time at the Fort Collins Rescue Mission, and it’s almost time to serve. I place the water pitchers on the table and watch the dining room fill. People pile in excited for the warm meal and the hot coffee they’re about to receive, completely contrasting the sullen faces I saw moments ago. They strike up conversations with each other, greeting the good friends they’ve made. It’s a community, and everyone seems to know their place.
The room falls silent as the prayer is initiated. I’m overwhelmed by the feelings of hope and faith in the room. The beliefs that things will get better. That everything will be okay.
I dish a hot egg scramble onto trays and ask if they would like an expired yogurt. Some people have very specific requests. Some people are grateful for whatever they can get. Some people are quiet, make their way through the line, and keep to themselves. Others stop to chat forgetting the line of people behind them.
Each person is unique. They all have their own stories and journeys that have brought them here. Some have difficulty finding a positive outlook on life, and some are as happy as can be.
I’m amazed by the relationships the workers have with the people. They know everyones name. They hand lunches to those who have to go to work, answer questions about the bus system, and address any complaints or concerns with a smile and a joke. They strive to ensure each person has what they need, and that everyone is treated fairly and equally.
The system functions like a well oiled machine. Everyone knows what tasks they’re in charge of completing, whether it’s doing the dishes or cleaning the bathroom. It’s a group effort. They all take full responsibility for their task, without groaning or complaining.
I’m stopped by so many to engage in conversation. Wondering if I’m a student, what I’m studying, how I’m doing. I often receive incredible stories about their kids or grandkids, something that happened at work, a journey across the country, or simply just the gossip from the night before. So many are so excited to engage in conversation and to be listened to, treated like the human beings they are.
I’m touched by the overwhelming gratitude I receive for my time volunteering. Almost every single person thanks me at least once, from the workers to the volunteers. I’m humbled by the gesture but feel as if I should be thanking them instead.
Thank you for the kindness. Thank you for the perspective. Thank you for reminding me of how lucky I am that I have a roof over my head, a fridge full of nutritious food, the opportunity for education, and a warm bed to sleep in. Thank you for showing me that no matter what happens, a positive attitude can help guide the way. Thank you for inviting me into your world, sharing your stories, and allowing me to be apart of your morning.
I never fail to be amazed at what can happen with a little love and a little hope.