Deborah Williams-Maske | Welcoming the Stranger

The Helen Wright Center for Women (HWCW) is a place that lends for opportunities to welcome the stranger. As an interning chaplain at the Center, I experience amazing opportunities daily to welcome the stranger. I too feel welcomed.

Coming into a new and unfamiliar environment we carry subtle anxiety, often fueled by the uncertainty of acceptance. My anxiety quickly quieted as the women offered warm salutations through a simple “hello”.

As creation unfolds in unexpected ways, the women come needing housing, many come unsure of their next steps from one day to the next.

The staff welcomes each person that crosses the Center’s threshold. In that exchange, a welcome may unfold in a variety of ways. We could have the opportunity to help them navigate through the eligibility questionnaire, share a bottle of water and a snack, offer reassurance that this is a safe space, or show them to their dorm.

In the Center, a greater welcoming comes from the residents themselves. In my role, I provide a loving ear—simply listening to the women needing to talk and find their own inner wisdom. Sometimes they may seek my participation in prayer.

A woman asked if she could talk and she requested prayer. As she began to share her narrative, I remember the gratitude that filled my heart. Listening to a series of tragic events from her life, I realized that she truly is a miracle walking. She too shared gratitude for several people that helped in her transition to Raleigh. She mentioned a dorm-mate that assisted her over the course of a weekend in finding her way around downtown Raleigh. This resident knew nothing about the city and even less about where to go for resources.

She mentioned her dorm-mate as if she was her own personal angel.

I offered this guest the opportunity to open and lead the prayer, so that I can hear what is important to them, and then I close out the prayer. This resident prayed for her dorm-mate and all the other residents of Helen Wright.

I gained joy in witnessing the words of angels.

While one resident helps another—a stranger—navigate the streets in a strange city, the other offers intercessory prayer for the other. Angels unaware comes to mind; neither knew the impact the other had on their well being. The women are hardworking, and selfless, often teaching lessons unaware in hospitality.

The women at the Center assist one another. We cross paths with the angels unaware.

My depiction of the homeless has been shattered. The residents of Helen Wright are the working poor; they may even be those that stand in the gap between poverty and a living wage—many of the residents are employed, an image rarely discussed.

The person sitting next to you could be without permanent housing. An angel intercedes. You might be their angel. They might be yours.

The opinions expressed by staff, volunteers, donors, partner agencies, and all others and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of Urban Ministries of Wake County.