And because I have a 7am meeting, I am sharing the post I wrote for the Choices Blog yesterday on the Fourth Sunday of Advent.
This is the fourth Sunday of Advent. The fourth and final Sunday in a quartet of weeks focused on the anticipation of the Christchild’s birth. it has been a time of waiting and reflection for me. A time of impending change. At the end of the year, after almost six years working in a homeless shelter, I shall be moving on, shifting gears, opening up to new challenges, new opportunities.
It is a time of sadness and of joy. Of knowing I have given my best, delivered my all in making a difference in the world of homelessness. And now, it is time. Time to move beyond the shelter doors into life beyond my wildest imaginings.
As I prepare to leave, I carry away with me the truth of what working there has meant for me. It has made me a better human being.
And at the end of my tenure at the shelter, there is nothing more that I could ask for than to know that in having spent time working and playing and sharing and growing in the shelter, I am better for the experience.
The other day a man who lives at the shelter asked me, “Did you get your coffee?” I had spent three days, three nights sleeping in a tent on the roof of the shelter as part of a fundraiser and awareness builder and one night a coffee arrived with a note from Mike. Enjoy! was all it said.
There are a lot of Mike’s at the shelter and I thought it was one of our staff. And while they supported the campout on the roof wholeheartedly, it wasn’t one of them who sent me the coffee. It was a man who has little. Who stands at ‘Cash Corner’ everyday waiting to be picked up as a day labourer by someone looking for cheap labour, no questions asked. A man struggling with his own demons, his own limitations who chose to share with me what little he has so that he could say, "thank you" to me for having spent the time drawing attention to this condition called, 'Homeless'.
I cried when I learned it was Mike who sent me up the coffee on the roof. I cried and I thanked him and felt my heart expand. He inspired me. To do my best. To never quit speaking up. To never quit giving voice to what ails our communities and our society -- poverty, addictions, mental illness, abuse... We must speak up if anyone is to hear our call for healing.
As I move beyond the shelter doors I know what is true for me – I want to give the world the best I’ve got within me. I want to share the best of me so that all around me people can find their light and shine. So that everyone knows, no matter their condition, no matter where they stand on the economic scale, no matter their address, no matter their belief system, they are magnificent.
As I prepare for the next stage of my ‘adventure of a lifetime’, I know – there’s nothing more I want to give the world than my best. There’s nothing more I want to share than my magnificence.
For in my giving my best, in sharing my magnificence, I am comforted in knowing, I will receive the gift of the ‘best’ from the world around me.
I am leaving the shelter, stepping out onto the big, broad highway of life carrying with me the most incredible gift of all – the realization that there is no us and them, there is no, I can you can’t, no quid pro quo. There is only this condition, this human condition through which we are all connected, through which we all share in the common goal of wanting to leave the world better off than when we found it.
As I prepare to leave the shelter, as I make plans for a new tomorrow, I am grateful for this time to find myself at home in a place where to belong, you must give up everything you ever owned to share in the human condition called, homeless.
As I look towards a different tomorrow, I know that I am leaving behind all that I gave and taking with me all that I have learned, all that I treasure, all that is important to me. I am taking with me all that I received in almost six years of working at a homeless shelter. I am taking away my humanity and my heart filled with gratitude.
It is the fourth Sunday of Advent. As I prepare for Christmas day, for the miracle of a child's birth, I thank God and all the universe for this precious thing called my life. I thank you for being here with me every Sunday. For listening and reading and being part of this amazing journey of our lifetime shared in the wonder of being humans on the journey of our lifetimes.
I am grateful.
The question is: "What are you willing to give the world?"