By Victoria Moussot
March 3, 2017
Last Thursday, I joined the Spartan Volunteers for my first Midnight Run, an event that brings food and basic supplies to the homeless population in New York City. Surviving outside on the street is not only exhausting, but isolating. There are not many kind words offered to the homeless. Even caring people that might want to help would be rightfully cautious. We Spartans did not ask intrusive questions, nor did we offer advice or make judgments. Instead, when someone shared, we listened. That was how I learned that listening to someone respectfully can be as much as a gift as offering a free sandwich.
That night, I was shocked when a homeless man explained the unfathomable. He said he wanted coffee but had to decline our offer because he rode the subway to stay warm. If he drank the coffee, he might need to get off the train to find a bathroom, and he knew he would not have enough money to get back on the train. Later, a homeless couple came forward asking if we had clean clothes. Unfortunately, we had no women’s clothing, especially the size zero she wore. The woman was delighted to get any clean clothes, no matter what size or gender.
After my brief glimpse into this life, I thought about Mother Teresa and her work with the sick and poor. She carried individuals to her home, washed them, and listened to their stories. When asked how she could bear the stench of filth and sickness, she said she always dignified the individual. She explained her work as a response of the love of Jesus in his most distressing disguise. She valued the poor because they were humans in the image of God, not because of what they could do or produce.
The Midnight Run was started in 1984 by church-goers offering late-night relief efforts as a “forum for trust, sharing, understanding and affection” fostering “human exchange, rather than the exchange of goods.” This remains the focus and model of the present day event. Human connection and altruism continues with volunteer groups from over 150 community organizations, churches, synagogues, schools, and other civic groups in New York.
Gina Velardi, the President of Spartan Volunteers, expressed it best. “My last midnight run, which was actually my sixth run, was one of the most unforgettable. However, it will certainly not be my last! I deeply feel that everyone should have the chance to experience a midnight run at least once.”
Spartan Volunteers practice steadfast kindness by doing Midnight Runs. For years, they have been quietly bringing supplies and dignity to the homeless. The Midnight Run is a reflection of St. Teresa of Calcutta’s reminder, “we can do no great things, but we can do small things with great love.”