Dear Family and Friends:
Monday afternoons for the past three years have found me at my post at the dishwasher in the Shalom Center homeless shelter kitchen. For most of that time I’ve worked with a really nice fellow named Mike. Mike has worked at the Center for years and knows everyone. He is my source for info about the guests we encounter there.
Last month I read an article in our local newspaper about a homeless man who died in one of our city parks. He was a dedicated alcoholic and those who knew him conducted a mini memorial at the spot where he was found. Mike told me they poured a bottle of vodka on the ground in his memory. The next week I overheard Mike talking to others in the kitchen about the memorial service that was held in a nearby church for this person. I asked Mike about the church service. He told me that the church was packed. Everyone in the homeless community was there. I told Mike that I’d read the article about the man’s passing, being found in the park and the memorial with the bottle of vodka and then remarked that the deceased must have been very well liked to have had a memorial in the park and a packed-house service at the church.
Mike shocked me with his response. “No” he said. “As a matter of fact most people very much disliked that person.” Mike went on to tell me that he was a real S.O.B, drunk and belligerent almost all of the time, banned from the Shalom Center for picking fights, often in jail for fights etc.
“How is it possible,” I said “that so many people turned out for memorials for a person they disliked and were even afraid of?”
Mike looked at me as if anyone would know the answer to my question…and said, “Are you kidding? He was part of the family.” With that Mike turned back to the dishes at hand and went about his work.
“He was part of the family.” It occurred to me that everyone’s had a distant cousin or uncle twice removed who was not particularly liked in the family but, nevertheless, had his seat at every Passover Seder and every High Holy Day meal. He was part of the family.
Family really matters; even in a community of homeless where no one is really related and yet all are related. Family really matters.