Wednesday, December 10, 2008

We see you

Hope is faith holding out its hand in the dark. George Illes
They arrived in the dark of night. Their yellow school bus twinkling with Christmas lights. Amidst a flurry of colour, twenty-five yellow caped angels disembarked and swarmed into the loading dock area of the shelter where I work. Some wore Santa hats upon their heads while others wore glow-in-the-dark halos that bobbed and weaved as they unloaded Christmas gifts from a large truck that had pulled into the driveway. All of the angels were wearing big, wide smiles. All of them were laughing.

They are, Angels in the Night. A team of mortgage and insurance brokers from Invis Financial who for the past several months have been raising funds to purchase much needed winter essentials for homeless citizens across Canada.

It was their sixth year coming to the shelter. The sixth year of sharing the wonder and the joy of Christmas with people in need of their support. In their wake, they left behind over $5,000 worth of winter apparel and footwear, underwear, towels, blankets and sweaters.

Last night, they also left behind a birthday cake for me!

When Lynne, the organizer, had told me the date for their arrival I had laughingly said, "What a wonderful birthday gift!" She hadn't forgotten.

Theordore Roosevelt once implored a nation to remember, 'the forgotten man'. Last night, Angels in the Night reminded everyone at the shelter that even those living on the fringes of our society, those whose lives are beaten down, will be remembered. No one will be forgotten.

Sometimes, all we can do is let people know, "You are not forgotten. I see you."

Last night, Angels in the Night arrived and shared their belief that even those lost on the road of life will not be forgotten. As long as they are taking a step, where ever it leads them, they will not be left behind. Because as long as they breathe, there is always hope.

It was a magical evening.

Amidst the laughter and the singing, the pranks and the high fives, the serious business of caring for those who cannot or will not care for themselves was taking place. A floor above the loading dock where Angels in the Night had formed a conga line to the clothing centre so that they could transport their gifts with ease, clients were moving up to the sleeping floors, settling into their beds, claiming their little corner of the world for the night.

In the first floor lobby, clients were lining up waiting for the opening of our Intox sleeping area. By the time the doors opened, over 200 people would stumble in and claim a mat on the floor, a safe shelter away from the bitter cold and biting wind that accompanies every step of homelessness. These are the lost souls. The ones who have forgotten they deserve more than this life of degradation. Numbed by the addictions that cloud their thinking and clog their veins, they have forgotten who they once were, who they were meant to be. All they remember today is the disappointment of who they are wandering the streets in a fog of alcohol or drugs.

We cannot forget them. We must remember for them.

Last night, Angels in the Night arrived and I remembered why I do what I do. Because I can.

This morning, my memory is strong. I have the capacity and the ability to remember hope for those who believe there is none. I can carry hope with me where ever I go throughout my day, and I can carry laughter and share a smile. I can share the magic and the wonder of what I saw last night, of what I witness every day and hear throughout the shelter.

Because, throughout the shelter, hope lives. Hope is in the caring words of a staff member who, upon examining the jacket of 'Joe' and finding the zipper broken said, "You can't stay warm like that Joe. Wait here. I'll get you a better jacket." The staff member is 30 something. Muscular. Burly. A giant of a man. Tattooed arms and buzz cut hair. The client, an old man of 60+, missing teeth, dirty hair sprayed out around his weathered face, scarred and leathered hands, broken nails and broken dreams. Yet in the words of that staff member, in his caring for a man who has nothing, dignity is restored. Hope is renewed.

Yes Virginnia, there is a Santa Claus. And his name is Hope.

Hope is in the difference we make when we remember those who have forgotten how precious they are. Hope is in a gentle touch, a caring word, a kind gesture. Hope is in the Angels in the Night who share so generously their abundance so that others may remember, "We see you."

The question is: Are you carrying love and laughter and joy throughout your day sharing your smiles with those who have forgotten that no matter the weather, no matter the circumstances, there is hope as long as we remember to see each other through caring eyes?

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