Guest post by Caroline Foley
“Girl, you could light up the world with that smile. You always smile like that?” A homeless guest asked me.
“I can’t help it,” I said. “Y’all make me laugh.”
I started volunteering for Room In The Inn’s winter shelter program a few months ago when, on a chilly November evening, I had met some friends for dinner at a local restaurant. As we stood in the parking lot, shivering and saying our goodbyes, one friend commented, “I feel so bad for the people with no place to stay tonight.”
That statement stayed with me during my drive home. I thought about Nashville’s homeless population and the dropping temperature. I thought about being lucky enough to go home to a heater and a comfortable bed and wanting to help those who couldn’t. I thought about Hands On Nashville’s motto: Be the Change. Then, I thought about the 100+ people who would be sheltered that night thanks to Room In The Inn and their partner congregations. The next day, I signed up to attend a volunteer orientation at Room In The Inn.
The atmosphere there is one of acceptance and friendship, and I look forward to volunteering with them on Tuesday evenings. My usual assignment as a runner involves ensuring registered guests are transported to the correct congregation. As another volunteer calls a list of names over the loudspeaker, I chat with guests as they assemble near the front entrance. More often than not, they spend this time entertaining me with jokes and stories, which has quickly become my favorite part of the evening.
Last Tuesday, I called roll after I escorted a small group onto a church shuttle. I called the first name, and he responded, “Here.”
I called the second name.
“Over here,” he said.
Then, I called the third name.
“God bless you, Caroline.”
I called the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh names, and they all answered with “Bless you, Caroline.”
When I called the final name, he smiled and said, “You have a blessed evening, young lady.”
I don’t know if I will ever be able to repay what they have given me, but I will continue to try.
Caroline Foley is a community volunteer and Program Manager at Hands On Nashville. A former Peace Corps Volunteer who served for 27 months in Romania, Caroline loves reading and spending time outdoors.