For my 30th birthday,my little sister Vanessa wrote me an original card listing 30 things she likes about me. Some of the things she put down on that list made me smile--it was interesting to discover myself through the eyes of an thirteen year old girl.
Here are a few of the things she listed:
1: you are always happy
2: you are always helping people.
6: you help me with my English homework
17: you are good with kids
19: you take care of plants
20: you sing for the older people
21: you care about orphans
and next one comes with a story
Number 25th: you have a favorite homeless.
The first day I went to the Magyar-Maltai kitchen for homeless, it was a rainy, cold Friday morning. I was expecting the people that come there to get tea and bread to be poor, but I was not prepared for a culture shock. The sights and smells of drenched clothes, mud, alcohol, dirt and poverty were nauseating.I thought I was going to get sick as I served tea and filled bottles for people who were profusely grateful.
Then I noticed him--he was soaked thru, his hair stood like a pile of hay over his head and his beard was long and unkempt. He didn't thank me or looked at me, he just got his cup and bread and went to sit down with the rest of them. And I continued serving tea.
A week before Christmas, a friend and I went to the threatre to see a violin concert. Someone had given me two tickets and I invited my friend to come with me. We walked to the Threatre Hall and I was telling her about the homeless kitchen and how much I like to help there. I told her that I see the homeless who come over for bread all over the city, but they don't recognize me outside of the kitchen.
The concert was beautiful, we both enjoyed it inmensely! When we came out, it was snowing. We said bye and I took the tram back home alone. The tram was almost empty, I stood by one of the doors, and at the end of the tram there he was standing. He had a thin blue coat, and he carried a pile of newspapers under his arms. He was rubbing his hands as if to warm them. His hands were chapped and full of scabs from the cold.
When I was little I used to get scabs on my hands every winter, because I had would wet my hands and forget to dry them. And my poor hands looked like a little slave's hand all winter long.
I wanted to talk with him, but I thought he wouldn't recognize me and what on earth would I say to someone if I speak only a few words in Hungarian? I ended up not talking with him, but I prayed for him right on the spot. And I continued praying for him every day and whenever I would see him. That's how he became "my homeless"
Whenever he would come around to get bread I would greet him with a smile and say good morning. Then one day he thanked me. The next time he smiled!
Once when Eden came with me, I asked her to ask him if his hands hurt very much. He said they didn't--but I'm sure they did!
I asked Eden later that week if she knew of any hand-lotion I could get for him, and if she thought he might get offended. She suggested to ask in the pharmacy and that she could try to get it.
The next time I saw him, his hair was cut, he was wearing a nice coat, and new shoes. I asked him how he's doing, he smiled and said he was good. And then he disappeared, the weeks passed by, I went for a short trip to Romania, and in all that time he never came around. I still prayed for him, and was hoping to see him, but I didn't, not even out in the street.
In mid-April, I went to the Maltai with a friend. I was helping with the bread and she served the tea. She called me over because someone was asking her something she didn't know about. And there he was, sharp and radiant! At first I didn't recognize him, he looked so different, and he was clean-shaved. He smiled and then I realized who he was! I was so happy to see him, I asked him about his hands, and he held them up for me to see the scabs were gone and they were smooth. He told me he has a job and he is doing good! I was overwhelmed with joy, I almost cried. He waved on the way out and was out the door when I realized I didn't ask him his name.
That same weekend I went to help the Sisters of Charity with their soup-kitchen. He was there, helping too! I finally asked him his name and we talked a little bit as we served and washed plates.
Now, I believe in miracles, I believe in love, I believe in second chances, I believe in wonderful things. I believe prayer changes things, and I believe one can make things better.
But when I first went to help at the Maltai I wasn't expecting miracles. I just wanted to serve, to bring joy, to bring hope, yet fully aware that the world needs more that bandaids and good intentions. I'm not delussional! I know feeding a homeless today will not get him out of the streets. I know teaching an orphan English will not supply his needs for a family. I know that giving someone money will not necessarily solve his problems.
But today I know something else: I know that I met a homeless, who I thought would never be anything but a homeless--and I prayed for him, and I felt his pain, and I believed in him and he rose from the ashes.
Today I know that we can make a difference. Today I believe in miracles, because everyone is a miracle!