Monday, March 31, 2008

my sad lament

I am involved in a lot of different things through my work, but as I mentioned yesterday and a few times in the past one of them is a seasonal program, a simple yet compassionately run project that brings anyone who needs it in from the cold no matter their state, if they can keep it together they can come in. I always breathe a sigh of relief when it opens because we are doing more and there is room for everyone but then spring comes around and I find I dread it's impudent arrival. The warmer days and still cold nights mean a lot of things but most of all it means the end of this place.

Tonight was the end so I went back alone even though M wanted to come because I needed my own way to say goodbye. I walked in to the usual crowdedness and that alone is a knife in the heart because tomorrow our doors will be closed and in a perfect world we'd be empty by now. The fear is palpable in some because they haven't figured out a Plan B and tomorrow is coming fast and others are so used to this their hope is gone and it's merely the latest inconvenience in a lifetime of woe. I notice one man on crutches with a disposable camera taking shots of the building and of a few friends. I ask him if he wants me to take one of him and he poses; this place was good to me and it's important to remember that when I'm gone. I can't help but touch his hand for a moment, words are meaningless and I have nothing else to give and we sit for a minute. The volunteers seem especially kind, giving everyone extra food and coming around to refill the drinks. I stopped to thank them and they mention their sadness and that they made extra food because filling bellies was all they could do and we clasp hands and they promise to see us again next year.

The staff are out back furiously BBQ'ing, even though dinner was already served it's their own way to say goodbye and they'll pull it out once things quiet down, a late night snack for all. Everyone has their game face on because no one likes what this day means and yet everybody knows the score. I see some old timers and we sit and talk, we hug and one or two of them kiss me on the cheek because we never know if we'll see each other again until we see each other again. Almost everyone I talk to says thank you, even if we weren't appreciated all the way through goodbyes make even the toughest sentimental and above all there's a simple camaraderie. I know it is their suffering that matters and my emotions are nowhere near the point but I will hold these moments inside my heart.

I have to pry myself away, I simply don't want to leave and yet my child and partner are waiting at home. Dusk turns to dark and I say a few more goodbyes and share a few more hugs and walk out the door, pausing to turn and look at the whole of it, folks milling around and watching TV, some are sleeping and others heading to the shower with tiny donated bottles of shampoo. I deliberately soak it in and I feel the tears I've been swallowing all night fill the back of my eyes. I walk into the darkened parking lot and when I reach my car I climb onto the hood and sit and cry, my tears shame me because any sorrow I feel is meaningless in the face of this suffering and yet if nothing else I hope it will make me try harder tomorrow because at the end of the day I'm just a girl who hates the injustice of this and sometimes the losing feels so much more than the winning and all I can do is bear witness the best I can.

39 comments:

Joker The Lurcher said...

oh jen. strength to you.

kristen said...

i'm sorry friend, this makes my heart sad too.

keri said...

your compassion and your heartfelt efforts to right such evil wrongs are so incredible. it gives me hope in darkness that good exists and is fighting to make itself known. it also makes me cry early in the morning because i know that your friends are waking in their cots for the last time this season, with the last certain meal shared with the empathetic comraderie of fellows-in-need looming. my heart breaks for them and for you. bless you a million times over.

Omaha Mama said...

You've got my crying again.

Chicky Chicky Baby said...

Oh hon. My heart goes out to you all.

TEOM? said...

You are doing much more than bearing witness.

Kyla said...

Oh, my jen and her beautiful soul.

You're doing something, friend. You're doing everything you can.

Her Grace said...

You are beautiful, Jen.

Beck said...

:(
Beautiful post about a heartbreaking situation. I don't know what to say.

Madge said...

as always you put my life in perspective.

mamatulip said...

Oh, Jen.

I want to wrap my arms around you.

I hope the cry helped. Sometimes you just need to sit down and cry.

liv said...

you just do what you must to process, don't you. i can't imagine how hard this is.

marymurtz said...

The fact that you weep that the good you do in the world does not seem like enough, that you are attuned to deeply to the suffering of others, that you continue to reach for a better world...well, I will say this to you occasionally in a way that is not meant to be religious but it is true: you do the work of God. You amaze and inspire me.
xoxoxo
Mary

cce said...

You have helped. You have been there for others in every way possible. This is not your failure. It is your success that such a place ever existed at all, even briefly, it is triumph.

Janet said...

I have no words. Thinking about you and the great work you do.

xo
J.

QT said...

Oh babe - it is hard to always be the force for good in this evil world. Your cry was not self-indulgent in the least. Hugs to you, sister.

deb said...

I don't think I could do your job. It would break my heart, over and over again.

Family Adventure said...

I'm so, so sorry, Jen.

Heidi

flutter said...

oof, my heart.

furiousBall said...

I'm a bit biased, but furiously BBQ'ing is the only way to do it baby.

Amy Y said...

I'm sad with you, too.
But I appreciate your lament and opening my eyes to something I never understood before... so thank you.

Christine said...

oh jen. your sorrow is not meaningless. it never is.

oh jen, i'm sorry.

NotSoSage said...

jen. those tears you shed on their behalf mean so much...so much more than the apathy of the majority of us who don't even know the strength it takes from you, the staff and the people the program serves to just keep on going.

i love you.

thailandchani said...

I remember this from last year, too. It's almost impossible to imagine it's been an entire year. My thought is the same as last time... "where will they go?"

Aliki2006 said...

Beautiful. You are doing so much, constantly, and touching so many.

KC said...

Your sorrow sits with me, too. I so want to give you a hug, share some wine, be there.

Amanda said...

Jen, you are spreading a message, expanding compassion and touching those in your presence and those of us visiting faithfully for a taste through this monitor.

Hoping you all feel the embrace of those near and far.

Amanda said...

Jen, you are spreading a message, expanding compassion and touching those in your presence and those of us visiting faithfully for a taste through this monitor.

Hoping you all feel the embrace of those near and far.

Jennifer said...

Bearing witness is so important. It validates. It shines light. It brings hope. You bear witness (and so much more) so beautifully.

carrie said...

Injustice doesn't seem like a strong enough word -- I don't think there is one.

And still, trailers - brand new, heated, empty trailers exist in the wake of the levy breaking . . .

Hugs to you, all of you.

Jocelyn said...

I don't think the sorrow you felt or the tears you shed are meaningless. I think they're the fuel behind a continued and very meaningful passion.

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patches said...

It never feels like enough, but never rule out the importance of small gestures. All effort matters.

Mrs. Chicken said...

Your sorrow is never meaningless, Jen. It inspires me, among others, to remember the disenfranchised and our obligations to them as fellow human beings.

I love you, girlfriend. I do.

Tis I. said...

"I've been coming here for years" he said leaning over the garbage.
"I know."
"I won't be back next week."
"Oh."
"I'm dying," he said.
"umhm," was the only response. They all said things like that to little kids in the innercity. Jest, fun, fear, prank, boredom.. whatever, they all said things like that, from time to time.
"You won't miss me, will you," he asked, rhetorically.

I missed him, only because I wanted to say that I was sorry that I hadn't believed him and was sorry that I'd be the person he'd had to tell, because I was nine and he should have had someone other than a kid sitting in the only tree for eight blocks to tell.

"Bye," I said.
"Bye," he said and waited and smiled and waited and moved on.

I was so sorry for so long.. but, only so long.. and so sorry for that, too.

And, sometimes, I wish that Oee could understand what it is to know and feel what I grew up with and at the same time, I protect her from it, like it might never touch her.

Years later, I'd found out that he'd been a professor at the University.

None of us are immune. Not even if we want to be. And, that is probably a good thing for most of us, if we are lucky enough to realize that.

I wish. I wish. I wish.

I've missed reading you, Jen.

Oh, The Joys said...

I've got no words, just two strong arms.

xo.
J

Angela said...

I am so very, very sorry. You are doing so much more than just bearing witness you are there giving and doing. Sending you big hugs.

Tis I. said...

I came back to read this post to a friend of mine, tonight.

This, "my tears shame me because any sorrow I feel is meaningless in the face of this suffering and yet if nothing else I hope it will make me try harder tomorrow because at the end of the day I'm just a girl who hates the injustice of this and sometimes the losing feels so much more than the winning and all I can do is bear witness the best I can." is why you are wonderful, effective and why we read you and why you impact on us.

Love to you, Jen. xoxox

Wayfarer Scientista said...

oh, jen....