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Jon D. Killoran '08
I work at House of Charity, a homeless shelter in downtown Spokane that serves the poorest of the poor—those with drug addictions, mental illness, and often varying degrees of both. I help manage the front desk and the sleeping program and am often the first face our clients see when they walk in the door during the day and the last they see before going upstairs to bed at night.
One of the defining moments in my JV year came just a few weeks ago on a Friday afternoon after a long and tiring week of work. The shelter was going to close up for the afternoon, and I was ready to enjoy a relaxing weekend when one of our clients, who had just been placed in a transitional apartment, approached the front desk. He had received a voucher from Goodwill that provided him with a certain amount of money to buy furniture for his apartment. He had picked out a bed, desk, couch, table, and chairs, but had no way of getting these items to his apartment. To make matters worse, Goodwill was only going to hold them for the rest of the day. He asked me if I would help him move. My initial reaction was to come up with an excuse so that I could go home, begin my weekend, and leave the stress of work behind me. Thankfully, I stayed to help. After the shelter closed, the client and I drove to Goodwill, loaded up the House of Charity van, and made our way back to his apartment where we started to unload. He opened the door, and I was shocked at how empty his place was. Other than the blankets he was using as a bed, two duffel bags full of clothes, and some toiletries in the bathroom, he had nothing. As two grueling hours of heavy lifting passed, however, his apartment quickly began to resemble a home. We stood side by side, sweating and smiling, after the last of the furniture had been put in place. We shook hands, and he thanked me profusely. I drove the van back to the shelter and began my bike ride home, a couple hours later than I originally expected, but happier than I’d been in a long time.
The most important gift I’ve gained from my JV year so far is an acute appreciation for the little things. As Jesuit volunteers we are called to live simply. I eat shelter food five days a week, share one bathroom with seven other JVs, and have exactly $80 a month to spend on myself. The regular trips to Santa Cruz and San Francisco are distant memories; the nights out on Santana Row no longer fit the budget; and the weekend keggers belong to an amazing yet decidedly un-simple past. I miss my life at Santa Clara and think about my friends almost daily, but I wouldn’t have realized how great my life was and is without living the way I do now or serving the homeless men and women that frequent House of Charity. I find incredible joy in home-cooked meals eaten with housemates, the occasional free ticket to local concerts or sporting events, or news that a homeless client finally got that job or apartment. JVC strips the excesses out of my life whether I like it or not, but more importantly, this simple life has provided me with the chance to truly appreciate even the smallest luxuries or bits of good news that come my way.