Editor’s Note: DCSC volunteer Domonique Thompson shares an experience from her placement site at the Father McKenna Center. She reflects on an encounter with one of the men, leading to long-term lessons and deep gratitude.

As we are entering the coldest times of this winter season, it puts the meaning of homeless into a different perspective. While I sit outside checking-in our guests each cold early morning, I start the countdown for when I’ll be able to warm up inside. The other day I caught myself as I enthusiastically packed up the table so that I could go inside. Trevor, who I was conversing with, began to pick up his 7 bags on each hand and said stay warm as he began to walk down N. Capitol Street. Naturally I said, “You too.” 

But, then I slowed down and had faced a harsh reality. Many of the men we serve do not have a place to retreat to in order to stay warm. The only source of warmth they achieve is through walking and therefore that’s what they do. 

For me, working there everyday full-time is a complete 180 compared to what I did once a week prior. It was a grounding moment for me. It’s hard for me to really put the whole experience into the words, but it made me frustrated (and even angry) that there are people who are forced to live this way. In a way it made me want to re-ground myself and be present where I am and who I am, instead of anxiously waiting for when I can abandon the cold inside. 

I want to feel this experience fully and then be grateful for my blessings. Even after the things that have been thrown at him, Trevor still greets me with a smile everyday. It made me more aware of the blessings I’ve taken for granted. As I enter this new year, I want to be more intentional about how I interact with each guest we serve, something I will not take for granted again.

Reflection Question: Is there a blessing you’ve taken for granted?