What A Homeless Shelter Taught Me

I have a lot of memories of this place.

by Jessiqua Wittman

When I was a teenager, my family worked at a homeless shelter called Messiah's Branch. It was a grimy, old bar that had been renovated by Dan and Linda Catlin.
My 16th birthday was memorable, to say the least. We were, and still are, family to the Catlins.
Pastor Dan bought me flowers and a candle, Sister Linda made me a cake, their daughter, Bootsie, gave me candy, and their 14 year old son, Bubba, crooned the song Sweet Pea to me.
Oh... and you can't forget the homeless people. It was a rousing chorus of the Happy Birthday song, let me tell you. I didn't accept their offers of free hugs though. ahem... (and no, it wasn't because of the smell)

Things weren't quite so sweet and friendly when we first showed up to work at the shelter though...

The Sound of Wind-chimes

When I first married my husband, it was the dead of winter. When the wind blew a storm in, all you could hear was the trees branches scraping against each other, and the howling in the eaves.
Soon springtime came. I can still remember the day my new husband pulled his babies out of the garage. He had three sets of wind-chimes. A big set, a bigger set, and the massive set shown in the picture above.
They clinked and clanked as he carried them into the yard. I tried not to make faces as I watched him lovingly set them up into their various locations. The two smaller sets in the front, the huge set in the back
"There... what do you think?" he asked, lightly pushing on a pendulum to make it sway.
The two smaller sets were nice. They reminded me of the wind-chimes my grandpa had made for our family many years back. They sounded familiar...homey...
But that infernal big set? It sounded so deep, resounding, different. It reminded me of a far-off church bell.
Bong, bong, bong....
I didn't like it. It reminded me of ominous things, creepy things.
But... I knew how much my man liked this particular set of chimes, so I didn't speak against it.

All spring, summer and fall, the wind-chimes made music around our home. I grew used to them, but also appreciated the silence when wintertime came and we had to take them down.
The next year, when spring came, it was time to take out the wind-chimes again. I found that I had missed the two smaller sets' music, although the big "gonger" still sounded spooky.

Nearly five years have passed since I married my sweet husband.
This morning, I stepped out my back door, intent on some kind of mission, but I got distracted.
The birds were tweeting. The leaves were falling. Wintertime was coming. I could hear church bells in the distance.
I closed my eyes and breathed it all in for a moment. Everything felt so peaceful.
Then I suddenly realized something profound.
I was enjoying the sound of those dang wind-chimes...
What had once seemed dark and unfamiliar to me, now symbolized the serenity of home.
My dislike was connected to my perspective all along.
And perspectives can change... if you let them.
Now I'm loathing the prospect of winter, because wintertime is when we take down these now-lovely wind-chimes and store them for next year.
I guess now I'm going to have to work on my perspective of winter...

Storm Perspectives (Part 2)

If you missed Part One of this true story, click here.

My little boy and I were separated by a fingerprint-smudged pane of glass.
This was not promising to be an enjoyable afternoon.

Storm Perspectives (Part 1)

My son is afraid of storms.
Or rather, he was afraid of storms.
Until yesterday...
How do you convince an almost-four-year-old to stop being afraid of storms?
I don't know the answer to that.
But I do know how we inspired our little boy to stop being afraid of storms.

In Depth: A Memoir of Mercy

What is A Memoir of Mercy about?
A Memoir of Mercy is about a girl.
She thinks that she's a good girl, but really she's not.
Then she thinks that she's a bad girl, but really she's not.
Gradually she discovers who she really is, and the answer shocks everybody, especially her parents...
What else is A Memoir of Mercy about?
A Memoir of Mercy is about a nation.
This nation thinks that it's a sturdy, well-seated nation, but really it's not.
Then the nation thinks that it's falling apart, but really it's not.
Gradually the nation discovers where it really stands, and that through the turmoil, it's only grown stronger.
And that is a beautiful thing.

A Memoir of Mercy, by Jessiqua Wittman

That is the short explanation of a Memoir of Mercy.
Here is a bit more in-depth breakdown of the story.