In the wake of a trauma, a wise person once told me that “our lives can change with every breath we take…we’ve all got meanness in us, but we’ve got goodness too. And the only thing worth living for is the good.”. Now, granted, that wise person was Natalie Portman in Where the Heart Is, but I still think that it holds true. Tragedy is happening every single day, heck at this very moment there is probably a tragedy occurring somewhere in the world that we will never know about, so I always have to remind myself that there is goodness too. Many great people in the world want to be good, and the luckiest people in the world actually have the opportunities to go out and do good things.
When people learn that I work at a homeless shelter, the responses can vary, but almost everyone seems to admire this about me. Why? Maybe because to so many people, I am making a sacrifice; I may not be paid nearly as much as them (so I often have to forgo a manicure in exchange for groceries), or because I do not work in an environment where coworkers will go out for a few beers at the local watering-hole during a lunch break (rather, we have potluck lunches in the office or bring sack lunches to eat during our monthly Book Club).
Am I really making a sacrifice because I am missing these things? Sure, I have to go to a friends' house to watch HBO and, on a number of occasions, I have had to be very creative with why my rent check cannot be cashed on time (“no really, raccoons in the bank, wiring chewed right through…yes, it happens…”), but nothing about my job has ever felt like a sacrifice. I am still able to enjoy vacations and have amazing coworkers that encourage these travels (see you tomorrow, San Francisco!) and I will take Betsy’s gluten-free pastries or Erin's homegrown, garden fresh vegetables over a lunch-time Miller Lite any day.
So, while I will still always nod my head and thank people when they say: “A homeless shelter? Good for you!” (or if I am feeling spunky, respond with “yes, I am pretty ah-mazing”), I would like to use this moment as a declaration of how I really feel about working at a homeless shelter.
I am absolutely the lucky one to be working at LPCS. I spend every day with people who love their jobs. Yesterday, I led a Creative Writing Class for our Guests and we had the most amazing time laughing together while reading each others' attempt at a haiku. I coordinate a Volunteer Program that has so many people calling to provide meals and spend dinner with Guests, that we actually have a wait list! Above it all, the best part of my job at a homeless shelter is that I have the opportunity every single day to access the good in me (I bet you were starting to wonder what the point of that first paragraph was, weren’t you?).
Anyone who knows me well enough knows that I am not often polite about the last chip in a bowl, I always voice my 2 (okay, my 10) cents when deciding on a movie to see, and I would definitely not make a sacrifice on where I work, either. I love my job, and what I receive working here is infinitely more significant than anything I have given up.
Thank you to anyone who thinks it is great that I work at the Lincoln Park Community Shelter, I think it is pretty great, too.
By: Meghan Freebeck, Community Relations Manager