Editor’s Note: The following is part of our daily holiday series celebrating “The Shared World.” Anusia Dickow is a good friend to FMS.

In college I volunteered in an emergency women’s shelter in North Saint Louis. One night, there was only one woman at the shelter, Deborah.

This twenty-year-old, Caucasian, college student did not know how to begin a conversation with a forty-year-old, African American woman without a home. But since the rules were that the women needed to leave the shelter between 7:30 AM and 4 PM, a good place to start was usually, “What do you do during the day?”

Deborah began telling me that she was trying to move her things. She currently had five garbage bags in her friend’s basement – storage for while she was in prison. She began telling me about the halfway house she had been staying in after prison, and was so grateful to no longer be there. She was so happy to have found this shelter, even if she needed to leave during the day.

I listened even though I barely knew what a halfway house was at the time, let alone the realities of living there.

Deborah asked me about my family, and I asked about hers. She started telling me about her daughter, and she simply swelled with pride. She told me how her daughter is was at a four-year university and showed me pictures of the mission trip to Haiti that her daughter went on over spring break.

I was surprised. I almost went to the same university. I might have known her daughter. Would I have known that her mother had been in prison and is currently homeless?

In that moment I realized, in a very profound way, that I do not know the whole story of everyone I meet. What unshared burdens do the people I know now carry?

Deborah had noticed that one of the straps on my sandals was fraying. Before she left in the morning she said she had something to give me. This woman, who had five garbage bags of possessions, gave me a pair of her shoes. To this day, it is one of the greatest acts of generosity that has even been shown to me.

It was a gift totally and freely given that required my own humility to accept. I could afford a new pair of shoes, but Deborah probably could not. That conversation, that gift, made the boundaries of my own world a little broader, a little more open, a little more generous. I learned the beauty and power of a moment of relationship.

Anusia Dickow

Anusia Dickow

Anusia Dickow wanders around this world looking for God, most immediately in Washington, D.C. where she lives and works. She graduated from Saint Louis University with a degree in Theological Studies, focusing particularly on Ignatian Spirituality. She also blogs at Millennial Journal.

Featured image by Franco Folini, flickr Creative Commons.

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