Five years, while attending my college reunion, I received a job offer to work at the St. John Center for Homeless Men, and I quickly accepted. Despite having no experience with working with people who are homeless, I felt right at “home” with the men I refer to, in all sincerity and seriousness, as the finest gentlemen in all of Louisville and so began a new adventure. In the past five years, my personal life has undergone a series of significant changes, such as my divorce after 18 years of marriage and being treated for depression and anxiety, but through all of the ups and downs, the staff and the guests at the day shelter have remained steady supports in my life. Now, that is all about to change.
Several weeks ago, as I prepared to attend my college reunion, I experienced a bit of deja vu, as I received another job offer. This amazing opportunity came out of the blue and has excellent short-term and long-term benefits for my family and for me, and I accepted the offer. My head understands that this is the best decision across the board, but my heart still is playing catch up.
Resigning honestly was one of the most difficult decisions I ever have had to make, both professionally and personally. This is more than a job to me; it is a sort of second “home”. The staff members are more than colleagues to me; they are my friends and mentors. The men are more than guests or clients to me; they are among the greatest teachers and dearest souls I ever have had the honor of knowing. I am terrible at “good byes”, in general, so, when it comes to saying good-bye to people I love and care about, the grief is overwhelming, at times, like it is right now.
It is hard to imagine not hearing the familiar greeting of “Good morning, Miss Kristi” to start my day, seeing the warm, familiar faces of my “family” and friends throughout the day, celebrating the magic moment of when a gentleman receives the key to his own apartment, or comforting a guest who experiences yet another obstacle to reaching a goal. The staff members do sacred work each day, and I am so immensely proud of each of them. To work alongside them has been pure joy, and I will miss the irreverent humor, genuine concern for each other and for the gentlemen, and compassion for those we offer hope and help to that are on display daily. We are a group of diverse individuals who have found our ways to one another, and that is a bond that may be stretched with the addition and subtraction of people, but it is a special bond that endures.
As I prepare for the final days in my current position, I am straddling the line of saying “good-bye” to what I know and “hello” to all that is unknown, and I alternate between feelings of sadness and excitement. As I make this transition, it reminds me of when I made the switch from undergraduate studies to graduate school. I loved every bit of my undergraduate experience, but in order to move forward with my academic and professional goals, I needed to attend graduate school. Although I moved on, I maintained ties with my undergraduate community and used my experiences there to enrich my graduate experience. It is my hope that I can do the same now, as although I am leaving “home”, I always will be connected to the people at the St. John Center. In fact, I already signed up to volunteer for a weekend shift next month, so, they aren’t getting rid of me that easily!
Reflecting on these last five years has led to lots of smiles and tears, and it makes me wonder where I will be in my life when my next college reunion rolls around in 2020. Among the many gracious words that have been shared with me by the staff, volunteers, and gentlemen since my resignation was announced, I will leave you with the words of two very special gentleman. Telling “our guys” that I was leaving was painful, and I vowed not to cry in front of them. That vow was broken quickly when I sat with Ed and Chris, two of our regular guests, and explained why I was leaving.
As I told the news to them, I felt my voice begin to shake with emotion and tears slowly roll down my cheeks. As I tried in vain to compose myself, I noticed tears in their eyes, too. We sat quietly for a moment before Ed broke the silence saying, “Sunshine, you are going to be okay, and so will we. We sure will miss you, but you are doing the right thing for you and the girls.” As I slowly nodded in agreement, Chris gently said, “Most people never would even come here, and you stayed for five years. Thank you, Kristi.”
Thank you to everyone at the St. John Center for Homeless Men! My employment may be ending, but my love, support, and admiration for all those who serve and enter there remain and only grow stronger. Until we meet again, my friends and family, know I will miss you more than you could ever possibly fathom and love you dearly for all that you are and everything you do!
That’s another story. . .
Categories: That's Another Story