Saturday, May 29, 2010
A friend of mine runs a program that helps people who've been in the streets for the longest time re-enter the workforce. Folks many would consider lost forever, she takes these guys and lifts them up. She invited me to visit yesterday, to see her in action.
So I walk into a crowded room but full of life, guys joking around and friendly. I see a couple guys I know from back in the day and their faces light up and mine does too. We hug long and hard and get right down to it man it's good to see you you too hows the baby did you hear I got my own place now? I sit down smiling, already my day has been more than made.
So the meeting starts and it is awesome, folks going around the room sharing successes for the week. The man next to me starts sharing I was given 25 years to life for something I didn't do, I spent 12 locked up before I was released. I've been in the streets ever since and my friend her face is beaming but what's different today she asks and he says today I go home. I got myself an apartment and he leans back and he's grinning like the cheshire cat, he grins and we all grin and the room breaks out in applause. And where are your keys to this fine new apartment she asks and he grins again right here in my pocket and he reaches down and pats them and smiles again. I reach over and squeeze his arm, the rock solid kind of arm that comes from too many years inside and he looks at me and squeezes my hand right back.
The room breaks out into cheers again, the most supportive kind especially when it comes from guys who are still in the streets. I feel myself getting teary, because no matter how many years and what's come in between, I never failed to be moved by this most beautiful display of everyday humanity, the kind that has no bullshit and has been hard won.
I am sitting next to an old friend, a guy who 3 years ago lived in my program for the longest time until one day my friend scooped him up and put a broom in his hand and turned things around. He worked for her for a year, daily getting up off my floor and going out the door. The following year he came back to my place but this time as an employee rather than a client. I remember that day so clearly, he poked his head in to my office and held up his work shirt. I'm scared, he told me. What if I can't do this and it's ironic, this guy is huge and tough and has seen all kinds of things and I remember telling him who else could do it better than someone who knows all the tricks? Yesterday and three years later those days are long past, he's got his own place and a car to get around. He's still got a job but here he is, coming back to volunteer for my friend.
The meeting goes on, folks sharing leads and rides and even some shoes and as folks are clapping all over again the meeting winds down, they have their assignments for the week and are off to work. The doors open and the guys spill out into the sunshine, joking and jiving and I am carried out the door on this great wave of hope.
As I walk to my car I chat a bit more, guys that most people would give wide berth to walking me out and it hits me again as it always does when I'm back in the mix that no matter where I go or what I do I'll never stop being moved by this. I am so lucky to still have this in my life because these guys make me want to do better, to try and do more. Whether in this country or the next we are all humans here.