“My doctor says I can’t participate in A Night on the Street unless I sleep inside because I’m getting over a cold. He says it will aggravate my asthma. But I really want to come because Don and I raised $616. It’s hard for people to turn down an 80-year-old! And I just completed radiation for breast cancer, but I’m doing fine.”
“Yes, yes, Jo, no problem. Of course you can sleep inside. You’re amazing. Not a problem.”
That night Jo and her husband Don, members of Union Congregational Church in St. Louis Park, raised $616 to help provide housing and support services for homeless youth--making her the event's top fundraiser. Jo did indeed come inside to sleep on a padded bench inside Plymouth Church at A Night on the Street. And for being the top fundraiser, she put on the crazy umbrella hat and wore it proudly.
Jo believes in home and gives of herself—even at 80—even after radiation treatment—even against medical advice—to help put an end to homelessness.
Some people lament the graying of the church, but if the graying of the church looks like Jo and Don Senander, then I say, “Thank you for your witness. Thank you for your stubbornness and persistence and kindheartedness and joy.”
As I get older, having reached that magic 50-year mark recently, I think more and more about what I want to be when I grow up—and I want to be like Jo. Crazy enough to still want to serve as an adult mentor to youth, crazy enough to ask people to support my efforts to end homelessness, crazy enough to ask my doctor if I can still sleep outside for A Night on the Street. Because no one should have to, and that won’t change until we give of ourselves.
I’ll think of Jo now when I hear that familiar line from John 15—“No one has greater love than this—to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” Including laying down for a cold night outside.