Written by Valerie Cabrera, Public Relations Intern
I graduate from college in exactly 17 days. I don’t have a job lined up, I’ve got school debt up to my eyeballs, and I have no idea what I want to do with a writing *insert typical scoff here* major.
But still, it’s hard not to hope that I’m on the verge of something great. That I’m going to move to a new apartment in a big city and have brunch with interesting people at hip restaurants on Saturday mornings.
Lately, I’ve figured out that I have always taken it for granted that everyone has that feeling—a feeling of hope that a better future is in store for you.
Sometimes that hope isn’t unfounded. Sometimes you find a job and you get to keep it as long as you want. You get married to a really great person and walk your dog and buy a house. You get to complain about your husband not doing the dishes or your wife buying another pair of shoes. You roll your eyes at pointless work meetings and take your kids to church on Sundays.
These past five months as a Public Relations intern at Denver Rescue Mission though, I’ve learned that it’s not always like that. Sometimes, somewhere along the way your path takes a slightly different turn.
On cold nights, as I waited at bus stops, I got to see guys in the New Life Program beam with happiness as they told me about their first “legitimate” job, how they’re getting it all back together. I got to talk to Tony, who recently had open-heart surgery and who’s simply grateful to wake up in the morning and see the blue Denver sky. I got to witness Tom, a Fort Collins Rescue Mission employee, welcome people into the shelter for a meal, like they were dear, old friends. I got to spend Saturday picking up trash next to Esteban, who loves zoos and misses his kids in Chicago.
Sometimes, I’ve learned, the kids get sick. Medical bills pile up. A job is lost. A legacy of alcoholism is inherited.
Sometimes it happens subtly, like plate tectonics; a slow, painful shifting of your world. You look around and realize that you’ve fallen off the edge of the continent and you’re drowning. You’re so ashamed you can’t look your kids in the eye, like Todd after 19 years of addictions.
Other times, it swallows you up like an avalanche. You’re suddenly buried, and you’re cold, and you’re suffocating under ten feet of icy despair. You run away, and find yourself on a bus to anywhere, like Esteban did after his alcoholism spiraled out of control.
Being here these past five months I’ve had the privilege of being entrusted with the stories of people who thought they weren’t enough—for their families, for their friends, for God.
I’ve learned that it gets really hard to think about words like “hope” and “possibilities” in a motel, or on the side of the road, or in a shelter with 300 other strangers.
Since becoming an intern at the Mission, I’ve realized that sometimes homelessness is just. not. fair. And yet, at the same time, it is fair, because, here’s the thing: it doesn’t discriminate.
It doesn’t care if you’re a college graduate. If you’ve worked in corporate America. If you’re a war veteran or a foster kid. It takes brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers and it gobbles them down like a hungry dog.
And just like that, people never have that feeling of being on the verge of something great. A life of possibilities is closed off to them because it’s too dark in the room they’re in— whether that be a room of addictions, or perpetual poverty, or dismal health.
I like how Brad Meuli puts it, though. He says: “We show our program participants that God has a plan for them that extends far beyond their current circumstances.” Better yet, I like how Jeremiah 29:11 puts it: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Above all, however, I’ve found that I’ve grown to love the cause I was writing for, the hurting people of our society, our homeless and poor, and I feel so honored to have made even a small contribution to help Denver Rescue Mission change lives in the name of Christ.