Eventually, I made it to the retreat center near Tucson, AZ. While there, I learned about love and tolerance through joining the monks in serving the homeless in the area. We opened a warming center for these folks to come in at night. People were waiting all day for the shelter to open up. I volunteered three or four nights a week – serving hot soup, hot cocoa, and making sure they got a good night’s rest. A nearby gourmet chef volunteered his time every night to make the soup. I flipped to learn that 70% of the homeless are mentally ill, and that they don’t have anybody.
I continued on to Indiana to spend some time with my family and to figure out what to do next. For a year and a half, I traveled to several more states and kept myself busy. All the while, I was feeling a growing sense of restlessness. Again, I was a man without a home. I missed my community, my church, and Bainbridge Island. Eventually, I was invited to speak on Bainbridge. I got on a plane and headed back. As I shared my story before a group of 30 or so people, I learned something very important: the families and friends of the homeless and addicted are as desperate for help as the ones they care about. These people want to help, but don’t know how. Often times they end up enabling the very behaviors they’re trying to correct. The response from the group that evening was powerful. I figured out that the work I needed to be doing had to be done from my own community.
I packed the rest of my things and came home.