Sunday, May 5, 2013

Welcome Home

One day last year

When I arrived at work, which happens to be at a day shelter for homeless men, I met an older, unassuming gentleman who has become someone I look up to for his endless supply of hope and determination.  When we first met, we shed tears of sorrow together, and earlier this week, we again shared tears with one another, only this time, they were tears of pure joy. It has been my true honor and pleasure to be a small part of his life, and I am humbled to share part of his story here.

When we first met, he asked me for the one resource that matters the most-safe, affordable housing.  As I have to do on almost a daily basis when asked this plaintive question by one of the guests at the day shelter, I had to explain to him that we did not have any openings in any of our permanent supportive housing programs.  As I answered his question, I saw his shoulders sag and his eyes well with tears, as he nodded slowly and said, “I’m too old to be out on the streets any more, and I just want a place to live.”  After nearly three years of working with these special men, it never gets any easier to be the bearer of bad news, so, I strive to help the recipients bear the bad news.

Since this initial conversation, this gentleman and I have gotten to know one another during conversations shared on the steps outside of the shelter’s front doors as I come to and go from work and in the midst of the hustle and bustle of the day shelter itself.  Over time, he has come to trust me enough to share that he struggles with depression and has contemplated suicide on more than one occasion, and I have watched his big smile and twinkling eyes give way to a pained expression and tears when the pain has overwhelmed him.  Even during his darkest moments, I have had the privilege of witnessing his belief that things would improve, even if he did not know how or when they would.  He simply had faith in himself and in others and kept his hope alive.

On Monday afternoon, he appeared in the doorway as I folded a load of towels and wash cloths.  He had a huge smile on his face and announced that his case manager informed him that she had the key to his new apartment and would be able to help him move in later this week.  I thought my heart would burst with joy, and we hugged one another and cried happy tears together.  We both recalled the painful tears we shed together when we first met, and I told him that even though his case manager had helped him secure housing that it was his faith, hope, and determination that finally led him back home.  I then thanked him for allowing me to share such a special moment with him, and I kidded him about him not being there to greet me every morning and to hold the front door open for me any more, as he does on most days.  He said, “There are plenty of guys here who would love to hold open the door for you, and you’ll find someone to replace me.”  I agreed that there were other men who may offer to hold the door for me, but that he is one of a kind and could never be replaced.  With that, he smiled through tears and said that he would stop by to visit the day shelter and would be there to open the door for me whenever he was in the neighborhood.

 He left his “home” at the day shelter and moved into his apartment yesterday, but he always will have a special place in my heart and a home away from home with us.  When I pulled up in front of work this morning, I saw many familiar faces, but one in particular caught my eye and warmed my heart.  Any guesses who made my day by stopping by and holding the door open for me?

That’s another story . . .

Ms. Kristi of Kentucky