I will never forget the first day that I volunteered my hair services for the residents at Street’s Hope. As I arrived and began to set up shop in the kitchen, there was one particular woman who instantly touched my heart. She was wearing PJs and a bathrobe and she was desperately searching for someone who would simply share their coffee with her. She was new to Street’s Hope and did not yet have her own food cabinet supplied with such an essential item. Generously, one of the other women shared her coffee can with her, much to this new resident’s relief!

As the morning went on and I engaged in conversation with each woman in my chair, I could not help but see this new resident observing me. She would come in and out of the family room with a book, read a little, and watch a little, all the while unaware that I had been observing her as well. She was very quiet, very withdrawn. She kept to herself. Soon, it was her turn to receive a haircut. After she sat down in my chair, I assessed her hair needs and began to cut her hair. She had shared snip-its of her life, which contained the realities of what homelessness was really like for her, such as not receiving a haircut for three years. When the opportunity presented itself, she had to find ways to cut at it herself. She was telling me of how she had a deep appreciation for the food she was able to prepare for lunch, even though it was crafted from the scraps she found in the fridge. I thought it smelled delicious, and she simply said, “When homeless, you learn to make all sorts of things out of nothing!” It was to my joy and delight to get to know this very polite and intelligent young woman.

With a big smile on her face and multiple “Thank Yous!” she got up from the chair and went to her bedroom. When she came back in, it almost felt like God allowed me to witness a piece of the refinement process. Earlier, a reserved, downcast woman sat quietly reading her book while she watched me cut and style the hair of the other women, but now she walked confidently back in with a cute, new outfit and a radiant smile that welcomed each woman that happened to cross her path. Rather than resuming her book reading quietly, she dove right in with a smile that appeared to be unwilling to leave her face, and there were even a couple moments when she giggled out loud. Her whole presence had changed—inside and out.

As I finished and began to pack up my things, she came and sat down at the kitchen table to eat her delicious concoction. She looked at me and said, “Ma’am, I have been here for two weeks, and this is the first time I have seen all these women this chatty, happy, and interactive with one another. You have a good energy about you. I hope you come back!” After I left, I had to go to a park, sit in my car, and process all that took place the previous four and a half hours. Over and over I kept asking, “God, why me? Why did you bless me with all I grew up with? Why did I get it so good and they did not?!?” Almost an hour later, with tears streaming down my face, I heard God answer. “It doesn’t matter why I have given you what I have given you, what matters is what you are going to do with what I have given you.” I will never forget my first day, and I will never forget what God told me at the end of that day. With that thought always in mind, I have continued to offer my gifts and talents to encourage these women on a monthly basis.

Denver Street's HopeJessi Burge