Returning to the office in the early evening to gather some materials I had forgotten, I discovered the first of the evening outreach workers at the back preparing for the night.
Each weeknight teams of trained volunteers prepare knapsacks full of sandwiches, drink boxes, personal care items and other ‘treats’ which might be available, in preparation for their venture into the downtown core. These items are important in that they are ‘immediate felt need’ items, but are more important as they serve as the means to make initial connections with people on the streets. We use them as tools to introduce ourselves to our friends, and they also help us continue relationships with those whom we have already met. It means something to us to be able to provide a sandwich, snack and juice box to someone who has not eaten for some time.
Hamish was in the back store room area of the office, considering and selecting things to put in the outreach bags which bear the OIM logo. Here was a faithful worker who was moved with compassion to those who are in need.
It wasn’t always like that for Hamish. There was a time, he told me, that he ‘just walked around them’ on the sidewalk, and not give them a second thought.
Now he seeks them out and is compelled to help in any way he can.
With his eyes moist with tears, he told me about the disparagement of giving some of these same supplies to two of our street friends, while at the same time noticing people less than thirty feet away, sipping wine and enjoying the very best of Ottawa’s cuisine and night life. ‘It just isn’t right’, he told me.
He never thought he would be doing this; never thought about those on the streets at all until he came ‘just to see’ what was happening at our Urban Intervention Training. As he came to a deeper understanding of some of the stories of our street friends, his heart was touched and he knew he would have to do something.
His life has been changed, enriched and blessed as he reaches out to those who call the streets their home. He never expected to be an outreach worker, but he is thankful that he has opportunity to do something for those who are without.
What about you? Ready for some change in your life?