Holding a Bible, looking around at a cast of characters that horrify and sadden him, a man is standing in the middle of the reception area at a homeless shelter, shocked by the expletives, confounded by the smells of alcohol and weeks of body odor and filth. He is silently praying to paradoxically find strength or flight. He knows that in order to actually help, he’s going to have to lean on his faith like never before, because he believes that these people are still God’s children. But he IS there, which is more than most would do.
They come from interesting and diverse histories, but mental illness, the great equalizer, has led them here.
Wikipedia shows the following as the “definition” for mental illness:
“A mental disorder, also called a mental illness or psychiatric disorder, is a mental or behavioral pattern or anomaly that causes either suffering or an impaired ability to function in ordinary life (disability), and which is not a developmental or social norm. Mental disorders are generally defined by a combination of how a person feels, acts, thinks or perceives.”
The part that stands out is that which made my friend Mary Klimas pen the following post earlier today, emotionally recounting her experience volunteering at the shelter in her hometown of Knoxville, Tennessee. She wonders, as we all should, how to best serve this subculture, the one that makes us avert our eyes and change our paths to create a safe emotional distance from them. Take a moment…