a look back

The last couple days I've been reading my journals since I arrived here, going back to September of last year. Interesting. There is a definite change to be seen. Some might call it burn out or disillusionment, depending on what they think of the work. I guess I see it as a growth process. Taking me to a deeper understanding and a next step.

It's a little painful to read what I wrote so hopefully about some people and then look at what happened to them later. One couple I really tried to help turned out to be alcoholics, were asked to leave our house because of the terrible disturbances, and then I found out the husband was picked up on an old charge and is now in jail. Another woman was overtaken by her mental illness and refused treatment so is now on the streets again, but still shows up at our house fairly often demanding things. A man I admired for serving despite his disability turned out to be a heavy alcohol and drug user (and had to be asked again and again not to set up camp on our property, because he was attracting other disruptive drinkers). He is also in jail now. A deaf man we've tried to help has become a problem, too, because he won't cooperate with attempts (ours and many other people's) to get him off the streets but continually comes for food, showers, and blankets. Even Willy, who I thought offered a story of success, turned very bitter towards us again before he disappeared.

But this perspective doesn't invalidate those beautiful early experiences. They were still beautiful. And there are still those moments, like last Friday night. We gathered around a homemade pizza dinner with several ladies from the house, laughing and teasing one another. Then there was a good movie and popcorn. Donna even watched, though she is legally blind. After the movie she reached out for my hand to help her get up, then gave me a little pat as she thanked me and said good night.

And I still enjoy seeing the sun streaming through the glass front door in the morning. And Saturday breakfasts. The last one was pancakes, just Mary and me in the kitchen, everyone else still asleep.

Polly Mahoney sometimes describes her years at the Catholic Worker house in DC as "the crucifixion" and her retreat work with the poor as "the resurrection." I imagine it might be like that for me as well. But I won't forget the good times here or the many people whose lives touched mine.