So much free time and nothing to do. Uhm, no, not here. Not in this place anyway.
I walked up the stairs into the entrance hall, shaking my umbrella, so it wouldn’t drip everywhere, what a miserable weather. I then open the door and enter the chilly room, I guess heating the staircase wouldn’t make a lot of sense, I better walk into the ‘living room’ area, the heaters are on, I am sure of that. As I enter I am greeted by Øy, Ma and Tr (yes, just abbreviations). Øy tells me to not take off my jacket, we need to get groceries, otherwise we won’t have enough food for lunch. He walks into the kitchen, checks the fridge and writes a list, then we head off to the grocery store, this time without an umbrella, can’t carry all the groceries AND have an umbrella. Øy explains to me, that they have an agreement with the store, that what ever is close to expiring or expires that day, they will give us for free, I nod and get some off the produce, tomatoes, lettuce, paprika, that kind of stuff, you know. We got lucky that day, a whole kart was handed to us, all almost expired products from dairy products to meats, everything and all given to us for free. We’ll take it – of course. Somehow we juggle all the groceries around, cross the street and head back to our main base. And then the day starts.
Making lunch, making a salad, cutting bread, decorating the living room, making coffee, talking, chatting, laughing. With whom? With all our guests, some of them homeless, some of them slightly intoxicated, some of them mentally ill, and some of them just alone and us, we’re here to help. I am the only volunteer that day, it’s my first day and I quickly got the place figured out. Talking is not so important, listening is and so I do. I talk to B, to F, to N, to L, to all people, to all 50 some people, that come and have lunch with us. I hear stories about the police, I hear stories about children, about families, I listen to all their stories, that’s what I am here for, that’s what makes me happy. Some time after lunch E pulls me aside and she tells me how happy she is, that I am here, she tells me, that everyone in this place is like family to her and that she appreciates me being here, having coffee with her. She tells me about her cancer and that she lives alone now. She tells me that she loves yogurt, and offers me some. Her laugh is intoxicating, she makes me laugh, because she seems so happy. Maybe just temporary but for now, she is happy. Øy tells me, that she was in and out of drugs, in and out of mental institutions and that some days are tough, others are better. He tells me that, they keep the doors open, every day and that he’s happy about all the people that come, all the people that know that here, they have a good place to stay. A place were they are welcomed, here they are safe and someone is always here to help. He tells me that some days he’s hurting for each and everyone of them but mostly, he’s happy, because they too are happy. And so am I, as I share one last piece of cake (made by Tr) with N, an elderly woman, very quiet, she rarely talks, I know she’s been watching me all day and now, that my day is almost done, she smiles at me and then she says, “Thank you.”
As I wipe off the last table, lock the doors and turn the keys, I look around, this is a good place. It really is, there is a lot of laughter, many good people and me. I think I fit right in here. Øy asked me how I felt about today, what I noticed, if I think I could come again – of course. I will, soon. And then he asked me what I thought about this place and I told him, ‘I am not here to change anyone’s life. I am here to change their day and today, I think I did’, as I said that, I thought about N, her smile and her words… Thank you, indeed.