As we head towards Christmas we have been reflecting on the Christmas story and also some of the families that have been supported throughout the year. We thought it would be great to share of the stories that link to the Christmas story. So much of what volunteers do is offer hospitality, they choose to make room in their lives for others (even when we have all the good reasons not to!)
“While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them”
New mum and volunteer, Sarah reflects on the experience for her family. “Whilst I was on maternity leave earlier this year, I was flicking through my emails and saw an emergency request for a mum and 2-day-old baby who needed hosting. Part of me leapt at the opportunity but I had soooo many reservations: “I was a new mum myself and had barely got to grips with that: I couldn’t look after another mum AND a baby!”
To add to this, we were getting so little sleep with our 6 month old that we were spread out across our two bedrooms so that at least one of us got some sleep – hosting would mean giving up that spare room and that precious two hours of consecutive sleep. And finally, when I asked my husband about his true feelings when I suggested hosting, he said he was apprehensive and that he agreed very begrudgingly, only because he knew it was the right thing to do. So here was a solid, servant-hearted start from our family!
When this mum arrived, it was like drawing blood from a stone. After I’d given birth, my hormones were all over the place. A cleaner in the hospital offered to make me a cup of tea and I sobbed everywhere. But this mum: nothing. I thought, “flipping heck, this is going to be an interesting couple of weeks”.
We knew this was going to be a tad inconvenient for us but life was way beyond inconvenient for this mum and her teeny tiny baby. Mum had already had her two eldest children removed from her care. She wasn’t entirely sure who the dad of her newest baby was but the guy she thought it might be was bad news and wasn’t allowed anywhere near the baby, hence why she couldn’t go home and had to live with us.
Even basic things I take for granted like eating 3 meals a day weren’t obvious to this mum. On her first evening we asked her what her favourite food was and she said she eats everything. But she didn’t touch her pasta that night. So I asked her what foods she liked and didn’t like, and again, she said she eats everything. But she still didn’t touch her food. It was only when we went food shopping together and I pretty much forced her to pick something she’d like, she went straight to the snack aisle and suddenly I realised, “oh she does snacks! She’s not used to eating 3 meals a day so of course this is strange for her!” This poor mum had been forced out of her comfort zone – the least we could do was push the boundaries of ours.
Bizarrely, as the days went by, I grew to really love this mum. We had so many laughs together as we poked fun at some of the clothes in shops or had film nights together or took the babies out for a walk or watched the World Cup at my church with our extended church family.
There was so much grace over that time together. Our baby slept better than he has in his entire life, just for those 2 weeks. Sometimes I’d go out in the morning to do something and I’d come home and find that the mum had done the washing up. One of my best friends who’d written herself off as a volunteer whilst she had a baby the same age as our son, decided to support a local family because she thought “If my friend can do it, why can’t I?!”
You know, I really hope we made a difference to this mum and baby. Unfortunately, when she left us, she went to a refuge even further away which was the opposite of what she’d been hoping for but we’ve kept in contact and she’s getting closer and closer to having her own place, near to where she used to live, in an area that isn’t totally new to her. She messaged me the other day to say that as soon as she’s in her new place, she’d like us to come over. The woman who would barely utter a word in my direction when we first met is now offering to host us! I think that’s testament to the power of relationship; because she impacted me too. The day she and her baby left, I was in floods of tears. I’d so LOVED having her to stay, it had given me such a purpose in a season of my life where I wasn’t really sure what I was doing. So yeah, as I say, I really hope we managed to make a difference in her life but she most certainly impacted ours.