Each guest at St. John’s Ministries has a unique life journey and a story worth telling
A reflection written by Fred, a long-time volunteer at St. John’s Ministries
It was a typical Wednesday at St. John’s Ministries Men’s Shelter. I was accepting donations, made snacks for the evening, and had fun with fellow volunteers. I like to call it making the best of organized chaos. Really no two nights are the same at the shelter.
As we were serving the evening meal I observed a man who I hadn’t seen before. He seemed completely normal, but couldn’t control his arms. They moved in all directions at random. The team realized immediately he needed help getting his dinner.
I offered to help and he gladly accepted. I carried his food and he reached for napkins. When he was able to grab them, he ended up with 20 instead of the few he wanted. We sat down together to have a conversation.
I had to get his story.
He had been diagnosed with Huntington’s Disease. It is a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system. It causes motor skill, cognitive and behavioral problems. There are 5 stages a person goes through with this disease. You eventually become bedridden and pass on from something like pneumonia.
At this time he could talk and was very willing to share. He was working, had a family and life was good when the disease attacked him. He was unaware that this was a hereditary disease. His entire family was tested and learned that half carries the gene.
What happened to him?
He lost his job, and health insurance and ended up at our Men’s Shelter. What was going to happen to him I thought? He didn’t know either.
For me, it was amazing to watch the staff at St. John’s Ministries step up to help him. His case manager helped find him housing and everything else he needed to take care of himself. That is what our case managers do!
As I reflect on all this, I ask could this happen to me? Are any of us safe from the ravages of disease?
I don’t know.
For the time being, I know this man is okay.
Treasure in Heaven
Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroys, and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
— Matthew 7 19-21 (Dove of Peace – Catholic Bible)