The story of the Hebrew Bible Joseph – the rejected one – gives hope for all who have been outcast. It is from this Joseph that we take our name.
Founded in the spirit of the social gospels, Joseph’s House was created to be a real home for those who are homeless and suffering from a deadly disease. Our spiritual underpinnings – the “why” of Joseph’s House – are the words of Jesus:
“I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.” (Matthew 25: 35-36)
Since the beginning of Joseph’s House, our desire has been to see God in everyone. In our everyday life, our contemplative spiritual practices help us become more able to do this.
In fact, when we speak of “spirituality” at Joseph’s House, perhaps what we are actually trying to describe is “presence.” Every day we learn that when we’re able to bring our whole self to a person or a situation – when we can be really present – remarkable healing can happen. Our spiritual practices are expressed in the way we share a meal, do the dishes, fold the laundry, or help someone take a shower.
Ease and trust can begin to deepen on a walk to the store, over a shared cup of coffee, or watching a quiz show with someone not well enough to leave the bed that day. Self- doubt, deep-seated regrets – even fear – can begin to soften and to heal – for both of us – when we are present to another person. It’s a kind attuning to the person who is suffering. Accompaniment of someone in this way asks us to listen deeply.
We were formed in contemplative practice by Frank Ostaseski, founder of the Metta Institute. Through Metta Institute’s retreats for those who care for the dying, we learned the value of silence in our life as a community and practices to help us keep our hearts open in the presence of suffering. Frank’s Five Precepts are a gracious guide for us as we seek to be present to and care for one another and for ourselves at Joseph’s House.
One of the first spiritual practices taught to our volunteers is the practice of entering a resident’s bedroom.
Approaching the door, we pause at the threshold. It is helpful to be aware that we are about to enter the sacred space of a person who is very ill or dying. Crossing into the room, we respectfully touch (at first, with our eyes as our eyes sweep the room), this man, this woman whose personal space has a different temperature and sound, a different pace than the world of the well only a few steps away in the hall. Then, drawing a chair to the bed, we sit down with the person, at roughly the same level. Pausing again we take a conscious breath. Bringing as much attention as we can to our own body, we sense our legs and arms. In this way our intuition becomes more available to us and we can really listen. We are fully present on sacred ground.