In our program volunteers open up their congregation buildings — and their hearts -- to people they have never met. They act from their best values and instincts, but as with any human communication, some things get lost in translation. Here, Mary Higgins, co-chair of the Families Moving Forward hosting operations committee, recently shared her thoughts including reflections from host coordinators Rosella Kes and Kim Sirek at a meeting of Southwest hosting congregations. She writes:
We are in our second week of hosting at Hope House, and it’s business as usual. It’s hard to fill the volunteer roster, the kids are energetic, to put it kindly, the parents’ schedules are erratic so we have to smooth things over with food volunteers.
And we feel the stresses on the FMF organizational level, namely “gaps” in our hosting schedule, or weeks in which we have no congregations where families can go.
I am so proud of the words of two of our host coordinators, encouraging us to keep going…
“I forget so often that MY life is structured; when you are homeless you have little structure in your life and I'm sure the last thing families are thinking is,” How can I please all the good volunteers that care about me?”
We do care! But we also forget at times that the families are under extreme stress because they need to be moving on. The time is ticking and the pressure is mounting as the calendar days go by. For us volunteers, it’s a 4-hour shift, or a 1-week commitment every few months. For them, this is their lives, the safety and well-being of their children. It all hinges on the success of these 60 or so days with Families Moving Forward.
At times, our patience runs thin, we get compassion fatigue, we might even feel taken advantage of, and lose focus. That is understandable - it's OK. We don't need to judge ourselves or the families. Together, when one of us feels stretched thin, burned out, time and again, others step forward to help. This is a healthy program.
I feel like the best advice we can give ourselves is this: keep a few steps removed. Don't take things personally. For the guests, it's not about us....it's a program for survival and it's that simple.”
Families Moving Forward is a wonderful opportunity, right in our back yards, to carry out the command to love God through loving our neighbor. Our church members learn compassion, empathy, humility, gratitude and servant leadership. We have come so far. We have challenges, true. But working together, we’ve got this!