This is a story about someone whose last name I don’t know.
Whatever her story is, she won’t share it with me.
On one occasion, I did hint at my interest in knowing and telling her story. I wasn’t surprised by her response: She was evasive, fearful, and it was obvious she did not like the idea of talking about herself. So I dropped the idea. That was about a year ago. I still think about her.
This much I know: Her name is Maggie. This I’m sure of because I heard it called many times at the Stephen Center, the homeless and treatment center on Omaha’s south side, where she works.
I don’t know Maggie’s age. She’s a baby boomer, meaning she was born some time from 1946 to 1964. She’s either young or old for her age. The answer lies in her unknown story.
She attends Mass at St. Mary Magdalene Church.
Maggie may or may not have a job title at the Stephen Center. I like to believe she doesn’t. Job titles are restrictive, and from my observation, restrictions would make her less effective in her service to the poor.
I can reasonably describe Maggie’s job duties without any knowledge of her official title: she does whatever it takes to make society’s marginalized feel wanted, loved and respected. I’ve seen that in many different forms: serving food to the homeless, distributing medicine, sharing a kind and encouraging word, comforting a grieving mother separated from her children, preparing beds, or serving as the shelter’s porter. She’s a tireless worker for the homeless.
Maggie mastered the art of multi-tasking long before the word became part of the public lexicon. She’s able to multi-task without the latest and greatest cell phone update, tablet or iPad. To receive her help, you need only call out her name above the din of the Stephen Center.
Many occasions I would hear her name called a half-dozen times in succession, almost simultaneously, by weary and needy residents. She was taxed to the point where I wanted to stand on a chair and shout, “Back off! Let her be! Give her a moment’s rest!” That’s how I felt. Thankfully, it wasn’t how Maggie felt. She does not wilt under pressure. She’s patient and compassionate.
Whenever a lull would occur at the Stephen Center, Maggie and I would put our feet up in a back office and visit. It was during those times that I wanted to know more about her. I wanted to know how she came to work at the Stephen Center. I wanted her to count the number of years she’s been employed there, count the number of homeless people she’s helped, count the number of times she saw a life get turned around, or count the number of times she wanted to quit, throw in the towel and walk away from it all.
Then one late winter evening I stopped wanting to know. Her story became clear to me. Maggie’s story was not about counting the cost, which is true discipleship.
That’s all I needed to know.