An Act of Love Rejected

From Jan, a staff member of Portland Rescue Mission:

My work day had been long with multiple meetings and many decisions to be made. As it came to a close, I so wanted to head to a warm, comfortable home. 

But I had made a commitment. A team of women was waiting for me to meet them at the Burnside Shelter where we massage the street women’s feet in a small room behind the chapel. We wanted to know and care for these homeless women who so often walk all day in cold, wet weather.

So I headed down and found the back room of the chapel all set up with warm tubs of water, soothing sweet lotions, plastic gloves, clean white towels and stools for us to sit on. We made our way out onto the street to find the women. We found three…Jenny, Melissa and Lori*. 

I got Lori. She hesitated to come with us and I hesitated to encourage her because she was drunk and angry. Lori muttered the whole way as she followed us into the back room. I hoped the environment would calm her down. 

Lori didn’t want me to touch her feet, but was hesitantly willing for me to rub her tiny, cold hands. I tried to talk to her, but she cried, yelled and mocked my efforts. Several times I broke through and thought maybe she would trust me a little, but it was short lived. Finally, after 10 minutes, it seemed we were both spent. I didn’t feel like trying anymore and Lori simply got worse instead of better. We had to have her escorted out.

I felt like a failure. I was there to show patience and love, but didn’t show much of either for Lori. 

I returned to my little bench deflated and embarrassed. As I sat there doubting whether or not to ever show up again, I heard someone say, “You did good.” 

I looked to my right and there sat two homeless women with their cold feet in hot tubs of water and their chilled hands cupped around hot mugs of coffee. The most memorable picture, however, was their faces. There I saw compassion. They wanted to comfort me.

“We couldn’t have done as well as you did.” I felt their love and authenticity. Deep within me love and gratefulness welled up for these comforters. It was as if Jesus was saying to me that I had done well after all.

Showing up to meet these incredible street women, even the angry ones, is a call to serve, to build relationships with people who are deemed unlovely by society. 

Is it sometimes difficult and uncomfortable? Yes. 

Is it always appreciated? No. Not by everyone. But…it doesn’t matter. 

Does the unexpected happen? Sometimes. 

Who would have thought that God, in His perfect timing and knowing it would be a confusing and difficult night for me, would choose two kind street women to show His approval and love.

*names changed