Farewell, Trinity Neighbors!

Dear Trinity Neighbors,

In what would have been “normal” times, we would be gathered in Trinity Center for a brief devotion before breakfast, and I would have the privilege of saying goodbye to all of you in person. We would laugh, maybe cry a little and definitely hug. I’m a compulsive hugger, and you all serve up some of the best hugs I’ve ever experienced.

But sadly this is a virtual farewell, and I don’t know how many of you will even see it on our website or linked from our Facebook page. Nevertheless, here goes.

Thank you for more than a decade of love, inspiration and a thousand valuable life lessons. Thank you for sharing your stories, your heartbreak, your joy and your faith. Thank you for your dignity and respect. Thank you for accepting me.

When I first came to Trinity Center as a volunteer in 2009, I did so because it was way out of my middle-class comfort zone. It took less than one three-hour shift – checking mail and chatting — for me to recognize that you all are my tribe, the people I had unknowingly been searching for and finally found.

Unconditional love is rampant within our Trinity Center community. “I love you” flies from our lips on a regular basis. Some folks may be trying our patience and behaving badly one day, but repentant and cheerful the next. It’s a cycle of trial and forgiveness. But always love.

“I’m sorry I cussed at you,” an elderly gentleman said only two hours after he had justifiably blasted me for picking up his breakfast basket before he was finished eating. “My mama taught me better, but that was a long time ago. Sometimes I forget.”

Waiting is something people experiencing homelessness deal with all day, every day. You wait in lines, you wait for services, you wait for your lives to get better, for housing to appear. You wait.

“What are you doing out here in the cold so early this morning,” I asked a neighbor who was the first of my many neighbor friends.

“Patiently waiting for what comes next,” he answered. I thought it was a funny response, but over the years it has become a useful mantra. Take a breath, relax, life and everything in it has a pace we cannot always (ever?) control. Patiently waiting.

You are courageous and hopeful in the face of relentless disappointment and tough circumstances. Your most frequent response to an everyday “Good morning, how are you” is “I’m blessed.” A blessing to you is a smile, a new pair of socks, a cup of coffee and, as one smiling fellow once said, “I woke up on the right side of the dirt this morning.” The blessing of being alive.

In the pouring rain as we served to-go breakfast not too long ago, I expressed regret that a young woman didn’t have shoes, and we didn’t have any in her size. “It’s OK,” she said. “It’s God telling us it’s time to wash our feet.”

When any of you say “Bless you” to me, I feel truly blessed and my heart expands.

I’ve been a church-goer off and on my whole life, but I didn’t understand true faith until I came to you, my tribe. God is always blessing and protecting you, there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. One neighbor, who has become a lifelong friend, taught me the comfort and power of prayer. “Tell God what you need, what’s in your heart. And don’t forget to say thank you,” she said. So simple, so true.

There is so much more I could say about the blessings and gifts you have given me, but you’re probably tired of reading this and ready to continue your journey. I hope this is farewell and not goodbye. My last day at Trinity is Friday, Oct. 9. Come see me!

A true treasure that I take with me is the knowledge that I will always hear one of you holler my name as I walk downtown, and I will be happy to holler your name right back. We are forever friends, we know each other, and I’m blessed to be a member of your tribe.

In deepest gratitude and love,