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When Tina emerges from the adjacent side of the Check Cashing store on Front Street and Kensington Avenue, my day always seems to brighten up. This is because I know that once she wobbles down the Avenue to 2441, an infectious smile and unforgettable laugh will trump any troubles my life has to offer on that particular day. Whether it is 100 degrees, below freezing, or anywhere in between, her cheerful attitude radiates off her body. Tina is truly a gift to this world.
I love it when it's cold out because Tina artistically finds a way to cover her entire face with some sort of scarf or cut-off shirt, leaving only her deep brown eyes and the bridge of her nose exposed to the chill of winter. Its days like these where many of our guests are just too cold to talk, and beg only for the shelter of the Inn. Tina is different though. As she gains ground, her eyes begin to squint due to her scarf-covered child-like smile, and a subtle giggle can be heard over the sound of passing by cars. That sound usually drowns all others out, but for her, they draw silent. Upon approach, her hands shoot out of the warmth of her pockets as she anticipates the hug she is about to receive. Once her short five-foot high body is buried in my arms, she echoes a familiar, "Wassup buddy," and clings just a little bit harder, ensuring a few more seconds of the embrace. After the hug is over, I make sure to tug her Eagles winter hat over her eyes so her entire face is blocked from sight.
"Why you always picking on me," Tina always questions as she fixes her hat.
"Because I love you, and I love picking on you," I always reply.
"I love you too. Lata buddy."
After this happens a few times, she is gone and my everyday life comes back to the foreground. It is in a moment like this when I realize my true ministry here at the Inn. It is not to serve food or give clothing, but it is to be present, and to love our guests as if they were family members or our dearest friends. Tina helps put into perspective, "for it is in giving that we receive." The joy in which she carries herself daily is a breath of fresh air, and it is so simple to do.
Interaction with people is unavoidable in all facets of life. Just think about how you can affect one person's minute, day, life, with a simple smile or hug. Maybe if we all lived like Tina, happiness wouldn't be just a feeling, it would be an everyday sensation.
• Matt, Philadelphia '04−'05, '06−'07
|P.O. Box 29276 • Philadelphia, PA 19125||FVMEDir@gmail.com FVMADir@gmail.com||phone: 215.427.3070 • fax: 215.427.3059|