“I love you,” Praaz rasped as he ducked his shining bald head inside my car window and gently kissed me on my forehead.
“Thank you,” I meant it.
It was the day after I had buckled under the pressure of having sustained 90 hour work weeks for nearly a year, the pressure so intense I could feel my teeth grinding together. Still feeling tender around the edges, I found it impossible to greet my men like I normally would in the mornings – with a smile, a hug, and sometimes a joke.
“What’s wrong?” Detroit demanded as he watched me light a cigarette – something I hadn’t done in a long, long time.
“Just a bad few days,”
“Mmm.” His eyes narrowed as he scratched his jaw indicating to me that he didn’t believe a word of my bullshit.
“It’s ok.” It was my attempt to shift the focus away from me.
“No it ain’t,” Detroit snorted, his breath steaming in the chilly morning sky.
“What’s wrong with her?” Enoch, my shit talking loud mouth, asked Detroit as he walked up to us.
By this time a small crowd had gathered around me, watching with horrified eyes as they saw me huff down the menthol cigarette like a fish out of water.
“You know we stand with you, too right?” Miss Monroe cooed to me.
“Huh?” I hadn’t the faintest idea she was talking about.
“We stand with Harry, but we stand with you too. I hope you know that.” Harry, a thirty year veteran worker of the shelter – and my godfather – had been arrested earlier in the year for an act of civil disobedience at the local air force base that housed the controls for the Reaper Drones. Guests of the shelter and Workers stood behind him as he stood trial.
“Thank you,” my voice wavered with emotion. That was a heavy sentiment and it’s significance wasn’t lost on me. Roman, Detroit, Enoch, Miss Monroe and Praaz all gathered around me and enfolded me in their arms in one of the most special group hugs I’ve ever been a part of. I felt instantly comforted, and buoyed by their love.
It was then that I realized that this was my Beloved Community – the homeless men and women of the shelter who had come to know me and who I’ve come to love with a fierceness over the past year I’ve spent with them. I was bewildered by their unexpected support – I couldn’t imagine that they’d want to care for me, too. Mostly, I was grateful and honored to be loved and supported by these fragile people because in them I’ve found the face and tenderness of God. I am filled with love and appreciation for them – their brokenness and their divinity. I am so small in their graciousness, like a little hazelnut in their hands.
I’ll never understand how I earned the respect and love of some of the most amazing people I’ve met… I just hope that I can continue to serve them and show my gratitude for them.