Editor’s Note: The following is part of our daily holiday series celebrating “The Shared World.”

I can still remember how nervous I was my first night hosting at Claremont Homeless Advocacy Program (CHAP); I laugh when I think about it now.

I started volunteering at CHAP in preparation for formation with FMS in Washington, DC. CHAP is a relatively unknown program for the homeless population in my hometown of Claremont, California.

It provides overnight accommodations, meals, showers and most importantly caring people to talk with. Like most people in Claremont, I didn’t think that homelessness was an issue in our town.

My experience at CHAP showed me a new world in my neighborhood. Before my time at CHAP I focused so much on connecting and serving people far away, and I overlooked the ones in my backyard.

While at CHAP I spent most of my time sitting around talking with the guests, sharing stories and getting to know each other. The conversations that we had were not elaborate- just normal conversation about work, sports, movies, or our experience growing up in the area.

For me the generalness of the conversation made it even more special. There was no end goal in it, just enjoyment. These moments were when the idea of a ministry of presence really clicked with me.

As Advent continues I am reminded of a fun fact that I learned during formation: Saint Francis put together the first nativity scene in 1223. Saint Francis did this so others may experience seeing God become fully human.

I keep this in mind because it shows me what we are really celebrating in this season; how Jesus was in the moment he entered the world. We are all born totally helpless, fragile, and dependent on others—it is part of being human.

In addition to Jesus’ inherent human weakness, he was also born into the situation of being poor, powerless, and cast away. Like Jesus, we all have moments of absolute need that we can only get through with the help of others.

I think the reason that I was so nervous when I started at CHAP was because I was worried that I couldn’t give the guests what they needed. But, in reality, I was able to fulfill one of their needs by just being there.

These experiences have helped me realize that people are people no matter their situation and we all share this world that we live in.

Nativity scene outside Claremont United Methodist Church

Nativity scene outside Claremont United Methodist Church

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