I have a huge heart for people that are hurting. Sometimes, I have more empathy than I can handle. The things I’ve seen in my life have filtered my love, though. Sadly, to the point of cynicism and mistrust in some cases.

Take last night, for example. My friend signed up to serve a meal at the Downtown Denver Rescue Mission and asked for some volunteers to go with her. Of course, given my love for people and serving others, I jumped at the chance. Concern began on the drive down there, wondering what I’d do with my purse. I couldn’t bring it with me. It’s a temptation to some of *them*. What would I do, hide it somewhere to be found or keep it on me to be stolen and traded for crack? (I mean, I should know… when I was a teenage runaway, living on the streets and smoking crack, I did the same thing with someone’s stolen purse and someone’s stolen wallet.) The other ladies I was with, were going to put their purses in the trunk. In my mind, that’s perfect for any schemers to see, plan and steal. So, I shoved mine under the driver’s seat. If someone was planning to break into the trunk and grab the purses, they’d most likely not be searching the rest of the car. (Grab and go.) So began my fear and anxiety. Walking toward the Rescue Mission, my reconnaissance mentality kicked on, making sure to have a clear head and my surroundings in check. After signing in, we walked downstairs and as soon as that door swung open and I had a view of faces, it flipped on. As if it was second nature and without a flinch, I removed my wedding ring, casually pushed it into my pocket and (knowing I was now “available”) I moved the ring from my right index finger onto my left ring finger. Not a flinch or facial expression. Dear God. That mentality was as crystal clear as if it was all yesterday. For the rest of the night, I wasn’t my usual self. No joking around, nearly no laughter. I kept eye contact to a minimum and if necessary, extremely quick and unemotional. I was in survival mode and I’m sure it showed. But I didn’t give a shit. I came there to do a job. A job I was still very determined to fulfill and very grateful being given an opportunity to help others even if I was surrounded by 80 homeless men, most likely all with mental issues and drug addictions. I wasn’t there to make any friends. The girl I came with was laughing and carrying conversations with some of the guys and I couldn’t help but look at her with sympathy. She had no idea that she was most likely a game to them. The *easiest* women were the targets, the first victims. I know this from experience. Could every single homeless man that we served last night, all 80 of them, be innocent, tame and pure in heart? Sure, it’s a possibility. But I’ve *lived* what homelessness and drugs can do to a human being. Knowing what I know, I wasn’t about to let my guard down until we were back in the car and on the way back home.

I accomplished my tasks with fervor and effectiveness. I slightly smiled and gave lots of “you’re welcome” and “thank you” responses. But last night taught me how much my past is still with me. When we left the building, there were people smoking crack about 50 feet from me. It was a very strange feeling to want to run away from them as fast and as far as possible BUT I also wanted to walk up to them and just chill out and hear their stories and show them that joy and peace was possible, without drugs.

Fear and love/passion do strange things to the human heart. I feel like I overcame something last night. Something I never knew existed. I’m hoping that the more I serve in this environment, the more trust I’ll gain to replace my fear. I’ll be back to do this again in a couple of weeks and I can’t wait.