Room at the Inn

John Litten, Executive Director

What would you do?

If Mary came to your door with baby, desperate for a place to stay, after a difficult trip. Would most of us let her in? Would any of us find space to make her feel at home, warm, out of the elements and safe? Whether it is over 2,000 years ago, or just this week, that question is a difficult one. It is easy to read a story that would ultimately lead to Jesus Himself and ask ourselves how an Innkeeper can be so heartless. When we know how the story goes, it is perhaps easy to judge those who would get in the way of the happy ending without putting ourselves in their shoes for a minute.

Earlier this week, I was walking back and forth on the second floor of our center. It is not uncommon to walk past the Atkinson Conference Room and see that one of our dedicated staff members are tending to someone in need, to answer questions, to find help, to meet immediate needs while working on the near term, or even long term. It happens all the time. This time, I did take note of two things – a baby, and that the mother was crying. Before I could ask, Judy Kern, our Program Director, shared with me that this mother had literally been dumped out of a car, onto our doorstep. The driver then sped off, and left little chance that he would return.

At least a half dozen staff would go on to help her over the next 18 or so hours. They listened, asked questions, provided answers, and ultimately found a room for her and the baby in our shelter, Moriah House. Dinner, breakfast, and then a stop to a Coordinated Intake with the County so that she could formally be placed into our shelter.

I shared this story with our staff yesterday at our annual Christmas Party. I also asked them, as I’d asked myself the night before, if there was a better doorstep on earth on which this woman and her baby could have been left. Of all the doorsteps on this planet, she ended up, unceremoniously, on ours. We all know this to be true, and if I had found the words I would’ve shared it with the staff this way: that it isn’t the doorstep that was special so much as the people within. A staff who give presence (in addition to presents, thanks to many of you) this time of year. There may not be a better people or place to go.

So if you have any kind of a manger scene depicted in your home or see one as you go about your travels the next few days, look a little differently at the old barn. Also try and look differently at the people around Mary and Jesus. Think of the supporting cast, and think about the place. Think about how you support a people and a place that can provide room in their home and in their heart for many who need it.

After I shared this story with our staff, Judy came up to me and said: “John, I have to tell you the rest of the story.” To which I responded something like “Okay this oughta be good…”

“The mother’s name.” She said.

“What was it?” I asked.

“Mary."