Williams is a Rwandan national, who has been in the US for no more than half a year. John, a Somalian national, is his good friend. Yesterday Williams walked into Annunciation House and asked me, “Is John home yet?” I answered, “I think so” without digesting the significance of this question.
After a moment, I got it. Williams calls this place home. To me, that means a whole lot.
You could call Annunciation House a homeless shelter, but I guess, once the guests are here, they are no longer ‘homeless.’ For that reason, among others, we choose to call Annunciation House a house of hospitality.
It uplifts me to know that my day’s work (and night’s work) sustains a home. A home for thirty, forty, or fifty people, that by some definition, are ‘homeless.’ A home that serves as a refuge from violence, oppression, racism, marginalization, and all else that exists out side of our brick walls.
Because I sleep, eat, and live at the house with all of the guests, and love every moment of it, I sometimes lose sight of the fact that the people living here—who would be deemed by society as the poorest of the poor—might not love living here as much as I do. But even if the guests don’t want to live at Annunciation House forever, it is a testament to something good, that for at least today, the guests call it home.
I remember vividly, and shamefully, the confusion of when I visited Annunciation House for the first time last winter. I walked into the main Sala, and didn’t know how to act with the guests. “Should I act sympathetic and understanding?” or “Should I just walk by and do nothing?” I wondered. These thoughts went through my head because at some level I assumed that the people at the house felt bad for themselves, were unhappy, or maybe even lacked hope. Why I assumed these things, I don’t know, because they are quite far from reality.
The guests at Annunciation House, and most likely all people in the world, don’t feel bad for themselves. Nor do they lack hope, dignity, or happiness. They are in fact hopeful, proud, and happy to be alive, despite that they have been thrown hefty challenges to overcome, and great pain along the way. The space of hope, pride, and dignity, thus becomes our mutual space. The space where all people interact on the same level. It is this oasis of communality that we at Annunciation House rely on to sustain a home.
When we see oppression in the world, or anything that we know in our gut is wrong, we can choose to fight it or to take flight from it. The fight that I take is in creating a space within which a community can avoid all those things that lessen us as human beings. I may not be able to give surgery to this woman, or get a job for that man, but I am with them in this communal space, representing the world that we seek. Right now, I can’t change the law, or stop the violence in Juaréz. So I will start small, and work to sustain the microcosm of what I hope to see bigger one day; a place where all people are welcomed warmly, and respected highly. A place where all people can find home.
Please feel free to comment if you any thoughts have been provoked.
Something funny: after writing this I stood up to use the bathroom in the shop where I write. Above the urinal was large sharpy writing, which read, “Find Home”