At that time, I had read and heard more than once that the hardest part of living outside was being treated like an outsider, not being recognized as another person worthy of listening to or looking at. I made it to the next Companion orientation and this idea was addressed in the emphasis of relationship above all else. So I started showing up to be a server, making an effort to meet new people and share a meal with friends each week. I tried hard to be open and attentive to everyone, and to not seek attention or affirmation for myself. Connecting with people with all kinds of stories and the action of service helped me a lot. I had a sense that maybe I was acquiring some of that spirituality stuff through the practice of trying to see others for who they are.
When I was offered the opportunity to write this, I was all about it. Another opportunity to help out. I started trying to think of a story about someone else to tell and realized that after working in the kitchen for a long time now I don’t get to share space very much with anyone other than the crew I cook with every week. And while I love the work and the camaraderie and banter of the kitchen, it’s not exactly the same as the experience of serving in the dining room.
So I was trying to figure out what I wanted to say here when I came to Welcome Table this last Wednesday. I normally work on Sundays and Tuesdays and I hadn’t been around on Wednesday much for a while. When I got there I was greeted warmly by a bunch of people. I saw my friend Jeff and found out that he had gotten housing through the VA. He brought a couple of new friends with him who had also recently taken up residence at the VA. They were getting haircuts. I ate lunch with them. I saw my former kitchen cohorts Eva and Sofia visiting during their spring break and got to catch up with them. I just hung out.
As I drove home later, I realized how much I feel seen myself when I am at Haywood Street. For a long time I was focused on seeing others as spiritual beings, but I didn’t see myself that way. But other people do. I’ve been trying to find spirituality when it is already inside me. The advice wasn’t about doing the work to acquire something, it was about doing the work to figure out who I am.