HOUSE NEWS: These numbers just in…

So the final numbers for 2009-10:

  • 2550 breakfasts served at the labor pools through the Breakfast Brigade;
  • 2,983 folks joined us for a meal at Dorothy’s Cafe
  • 29 different people stayed with us 185 nights over the past year

And we shared a cup of coffee and some snacks with hundreds of people on Tuesdays and Thursdays this past semester at the new coffee house project. We don’t keep track of how many blankets we give out, or clothes, how many extra meals folks join us for outside of the Brigade and Cafe, nor how many folks just stop by for mail, or to make a phone call, or just chat and rest a bit.

I do the “numbers” at the end of every year. I know some of you might not understand my fascination with statistics. I’ve tried to explain that honestly it comes from my baseball background and how much I love to check the box scores every morning during the season–seeing who hit home runs, how many batters a certain pitcher struck out, who is leading the league in RBIs, etc. This is all true. But there’s another reason too.

Numbers matter to me because sometimes I get lost in the day-to-day of what we do, in all the faces passing by, in all the stories of all the different people who are dealing with struggles in their lives. So many of the folks who leave the house, you just don’t know what or if you’ve done anything for them that really matters. It all feels so much like a drop in the proverbial bucket, and you wonder if it adds up to making any difference at all.

I know that numbers never tell the whole story. They can’t tell you how Kim sat and listened and shared her life with that one guest that stayed 17 nights with us. Or the stories of suffering and surviving that so many homeless women have shared with each other and our volunteers at the Thursday “Ladies Only” coffee house. Or all the laughter I used to hear upstairs from those same women as they regaled Kelli or Diedre or Leah with their stories. Numbers can’t tell you how hard it is to share a home with people who are addicted but desperately want to get off drugs and how they keep falling down and then rising back up again. The numbers don’t communicate Lawrence making bread at 3:20am on Friday mornings and all the guys at the labor pools wanting so bad to work that day, who week after week say “thank you” and smile as they take a slice of homemade bread and hardboiled eggs. There’s so much that numbers don’t even hint at.

Jen and Arthur (and Leah in the back!) after Dorothy's Cafe

Jen and Arthur (and Leah in the back!) after Dorothy's Cafe

But for me, at this time of year, just a few hours after our last Dorothy’s Cafe until we restart in August, it gives me some sense of accomplishment to see that nearly 3000 people shared lunch with us every week, or that we thanked 2500 workers with bread and eggs on Friday mornings throughout the year. Tired as I am after mopping those floors and doing all those dishes today, it lifts me up to see that this year we gave 29 different people a place to sleep when they had nowhere else to go. The numbers aren’t overwhelming; I know there are years where we’ve done more if you go strictly by the numbers. But still, seeing it all down, seeing the year’s work measured out for me–it means something.

Each day may have only been a drop in the bucket. But when the year is over, and I get to add it all up, I think maybe we’ve come close to filling that bucket.

~ John


Posted on 06/09/2010, in HOUSE NEWS. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Natalie Small

    How amazing is your creativity and caring, John and Kelli, when you can orchestrate that mind-boggling list of accomplishments from inside that little house on 2nd.

  2. Gloria Chynoweth

    Bravo for yet another amazing year, John and Kelli! Accolades to both of you!

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