Preparing for this year's Room In The Inn season has been both nerve-racking and exhilarating. Not knowing how some things would come together was (and still is) extremely stressful, but seeing all of our hard work and preparation come together for our first night of hosting last Friday was very rewarding. The night did not go off flawlessly by any means--some points were a little frantic--but overall the night was a huge success.
For me (Robert), Friday was filled with Room In The Inn preparations. It seemed like I was either running around campus pulling together a few last minute things, or I was in the Commons clubhouse doing laundry (read: taking a nap while the laundry was in the machines). The laundry got done just in time for me to head to the Sport Science building and start my innkeeper duties for the night. After about fifteen minutes, Torren and I went downtown to pick up our guests. The whole day up to that point had felt super rushed. We hadn't even gotten out of the parking lot before I was bluntly reminded of the reason that I love working with Room In The Inn: the guests.
I was involved in Room Inn the Inn last year as an innkeeper, so I was really excited when our team accepted this project in the Spring. That excitement has definitely carried over into this Fall as we have been preparing for this season. But now, after thinking about it for a while, I have realized that there was quite a sizable gap between our preparation and the actual experience of running this shelter. Nothing could really have prepared us for the experience of having conversations with the men that we are serving, and that's the most important part of our whole operation. We knew that was the most important part all along, but there is a difference between talking about it and experiencing it that cannot be made up for by any amount of preparation.
All of us that were there on Friday night got to talk to the guests over dinner. Anyone familiar with the Room In The Inn program will know that eating a meal together is extremely important to how the program operates. We got to hear some of their stories and talk to them about our lives as well. It was a very edifying conversation. Later, the three of us that spent the night with the guests ended up talking with one of the men (the only one that was still awake) and listening to his story until about 11 o'clock. I think that I can speak for all three of us when I say that one conversation was more rewarding than seeing all of our logistical plans coming together could have ever been.
As we continue to learn what we can do to make things run smoother for our guests this winter, I want to remind ourselves, our volunteers, and anyone else reading this post of what this operation is really about. This is about the homeless men that we meet. They are the most important part. Let us move into this Room In The Inn season remembering that we aren't doing this to serve our consciences or our academic transcripts. We are doing this to serve people.
P.S. As always, if you are interesting in helping out with Belmont's Room In The Inn site, either by volunteering or donating, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org