the turn of a phrase

It's that time of year again and the last carousel ride for me. The winter season always makes me a bit hopeful, the programs we aren't able to run in warmer months open in full force in a few weeks. Knowing almost twice as many people will be safe and warm soon fills me with an excitement I can't quite explain except to say it's doing what we do best and we get to do it in full force. In preparation for the season we are holding a number of orientations, ones geared towards outlining expectations and explaining new services and sometimes even philosophies and I had the pleasure of facilitating a session tonight.

I'm waiting for everyone to file in when I see him, a man who slept at our program last year because he had no place else to go. Tonight he walked into the staff meeting and sat down right in front. I see him and I can't help it, I'm grinning wildly as I understand what this means and yet conscious of things I stay where I am. He catches my eye and smiles and nods and the session begins. It's a lively group, one that ends with us making a collective commitment to each other and the cause to do all we can this season to help every person who walks through our doors. The excitement and perhaps a bit of apprehension fills the room and its tinged with my knowing that this is the last time I'll get to do this and I won't even be here to see the season end.

Folks are filing out when he comes up to me and he leans down and gives me a hug. I squeeze his arm and I tell him I am so happy to see him and he confesses he's a little scared being on this side of things. I talk a bit about the power in that, how he knows things some of us will never know and how much better that will make him at this and how much more others will place their trust in him, this man who has risen from their streets. I see it click then, his eyes light up you think so he says I know so and we walk through the great room stepping over sleeping bodies and walk into the night. I guess I'll head home he says and he turns and walks away and I stand for a minute watching him go because those five words have never sounded quite so sweet.

As I get in my car I glance back at the glowing light, I see bodies waiting in line and the folks at the desk. The smokers are filing out and someone's pushing someone else's chair. I see it all in this moment and I realize again what I've always known, this place and this work is the marrow of my blood and yet I am leaving and I wonder once again if anything can ever really take its place.

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