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The Face of Jesus

By Susan Jacubowski-Weiner, San Marino UCC

     How often do you see the face of Jesus?  No, I don’t mean in your dreams, but in your everyday life.  Some of the more than twenty San Marino UCC volunteers at the Pasadena Bad Weather Shelter may tell you that they see Jesus Tuesday evenings in January and February.  We are returning home progressively more wiped out, but deeply reflective and oh, so honored to have been called upon to perform the work we have done.  Numbers keep rising.  Weekly shopping for the evening becomes a bigger job.  Arriving by 6:00 p.m. we get the six kitchen gas burners fired up, while others of our group scurry on to an auditorium stage to make sense out of stacked bed rolls to prepare for our guests.  At 7:00 families arrive.  The innocent faces of little children.  How many comprehend their family’s plight?  Grateful parents; always pleased for the warmed glass of milk or extra cookies or fruit for their child.  Do the children attend school?  What about the nights they are not with us?  How cold does it get out there? 

     Next, at 8:00 too many people file in, still with a blanket of cold surrounding their bodies.  Each usually has a very neatly packed roll containing the sum of their life possessions.  Some appear glassy eyed or smelling of alcohol.  Others have facial or body bruises and cuts, their price for life on the streets.  Thank goodness this shelter is open to all, only requiring non-hostile and appropriate behavior.   One is so under the influence that staff is required to hold his body upright and place a pen in his hand so he can sign his name.  God is working through the committed staff that works at the shelter nightly.  They warmly talk and laugh with the guests.  They dispense community referrals to those looking for a way out.

     Polite, sweet, quiet, smiling—so many positive descriptors.  At the sign-in desk they share their names with dignity, often including a middle initial or correcting a misspelled letter.  There is no confusion about who they are.  Some have had tough lives and look older than their actual age.  Others talk openly about a recent release from prison and the uncertainty that being a parolee brings.  What kind of chance do they have within our society?  What programs are there for them?  I sign in a string of “boys,” each maybe being the age of my 30-year old son.  Could they be friends?  They are so polite, wearing clean clothes, smiling at me.  What makes them smile?  They cause no problems.  Is this what our economy has done to them?  Has their life parachute ripped open?

     Meals hot and bubbly on the stove.  Our excitement mounts as we know for many guests we will be serving that one nourishing meal of the day.  I love being on the serving line, making eye contact as weary-footed travelers line up with their anticipation.  What will the meal be?  Will it be hot?  Will there be enough for seconds, thirds?  As they file through I melt.  Beautiful faces God made for the entire world to see and appreciate.  Some speak, some don’t.  At least one is deaf, others speak no English, but I know they are grateful for the bad weather shelter program.  I am certain they are pleased to be treated with dignity by all with whom they come in contact. Days may be full of hopelessness, but the night offers warmth and nourishment to those who come in from the cold.  It is a blessing to my life to be among them, to walk and share cookies for dessert as they ready for bed, imagining that I am tucking each one in for a safe night’s sleep—that which I have every single night.  Do I thank God often enough?

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