Thursday, July 21, 2011

Death and Resurrection

I'm often far enough removed from the chaos of operations in the day shelter where I spend lots of hours each week that I am largely protected from the brokenness that walks through the door each day.  I face it at a distance most of the time, with only a couple of days  a week consumed with the daily details.  The incredible staff I work with, however, stand face to face with that brokenness for 40 hours, each one of them, every week.  Some days are better than others. 
Today, on my way to yet another meeting, I called my assistant director to check-in, to see how the morning was going.  I could tell she was stressed, and had had better days.  And part of the reason, I discovered, was grief.  Raw and painful sorrow, laced with frustration.  Word had come that a woman we'd all known well, for quite some time, had died the day before.  She'd been in and out of the shelter system, lived outside, camped in places not meant for human habitation, struggled with physical and mental disabilities, addictions.  It seemed to many of us that her most destructive addiction was to her husband, in a vicious and demeaning cycle of long-term domestic violence.  With all of that, we'd also managed to help her (with her husband) finally get off the street and into an apartment.  And then, today, word comes that just a year later - only a year after decades of no permanent housing - she's gone.  Rumors abound, of course, about how she died.  Reality is, it doesn't matter.  Death is death.

This afternoon, wading through emails and phone messages, trying to catch up or at least hold my head above water in the midst of pages of to-do lists, I hear a car pull up in the driveway that's just below my window.  I pause to take a look, more out of wanting to stall or procrastinate that to-do list than out of any real curiosity.  But the tall, white man with a little bit of extra weight on him looks familiar.  I look again.  No, he's too heavy to be J.  J. is tall and white, but thin due to too many years of drug abuse.  And he doesn't have a car.  A few minutes later, there's a knock on the staff entrance door.  I look up from my computer screen.  It is J.  And he's grinning from ear to ear.  He looks healthy and well.  He looks happy.  He looks free.  I tell him how great he looks, he gives me a big hug. I ask him what he's up to.  He's come to volunteer his time, to help our director of community engagement with a big mailing she's doing.  "Time for me to give to you," J. says.

One day.  A few short hours. From death to resurrection. 

1 comment:

Elane said...

Yes. And not just for them, eh?