Volunteer Spotlight: Lisa Finds Blessings all Around Her
When Lisa, a third-grade teacher with a contagious laugh, started volunteering at the mission, she knew her bubbly personality would be an asset. “I thought I was going to be a blessing to someone,” Lisa said. “I thought, ‘I’ve got something to offer. I’m going to go hug the person that needs the hug.’ I’m that person.”
At the time, the mission was involved in serving meals to the needy in the community. “I would go and I would sit with them while they ate. I would get involved in these people’s lives, develop relationships with them. I was going through a rough time, and I ended up going every day because I felt so good when I left. One day I just realized,” Lisa said through tears, “‘Oh my gosh, they’re blessing me.’ They were the blessing.”
Lisa would learn the guests’ names and greet them each night. One evening she got a surprise when a man approached her. “There was a guy who used to come every night for dinner. One evening, he came up to me and he was all cleaned up. He said, ‘I want you to know that I have an apartment now and I have a job. Every day you would say hi to me and call me by my name and you would smile at me, it made me feel loved. I didn’t ever feel worthy of anybody smiling at me because I was in such a bad place in my life. And just the fact that everyday you’d say hi and smile at me, that’s what motivated me to do something with my life.’”
“He made me bawl my head off,” Lisa said. “I just thought, wow, you sometimes don’t even know what you’re doing. You’re just nice to people. That was a blessing for me. I never would think someone isn’t worth a smile, but you never know what’s going on in someone else’s head.”
Lisa got involved after learning about the mission from her church, High Desert Church. She started helping with meals and the shower program and now attends events, mans information booths and sorts food in the pantry. She is committed to changing negative perceptions some have of the homeless. “I wish people would get involved so they would understand that people are not always in situations like this because they have an addiction or because they’ve done something wrong,” she said. “Sometimes it’s a life circumstance that happens and then you just spiral.
“There’s a person I know, and he’s so brilliant. He’s amazingly smart. His reason for being homeless is not because he had an addiction or he blew all his money or whatever you are thinking. He was in a relationship, it fell apart, and it really took a toll on his life. He’s never really recovered from it. And since then, he’s missing some teeth, and it’s hard for him to go get a job just because of how he looks.
“Meanwhile, he doesn’t sit around—he volunteers all day long. That’s the best he knows how to do. You don’t always know what’s going on. Sometimes you just have to really not judge people and just get to know them.”
Lisa said donors are providing a fresh start for those who are willing to really work for it. “I know a lot of people personally that are in the program,” she said. “They can’t just walk in off the street and decide they want to live in a homeless shelter. It’s not like that. They really have to be invested for nine months of their life, and they have to be willing to have a Christian lifestyle and values.
“I’ve seen a lot of people in the shower program or at dinner programs and they don’t look healthy. And then I see them later, and I see how those donations really affect people’s health. They really do. … Their donations go to a great program that’s valuable, that’s really doing good for lives. They are doing so much for morale and self-esteem, making people feel loved—that’s what those resources are doing.”