by Daynah Williams
I was doing a double shift at our Front Desk recently and the weather was like the inside of an oven set to 500 degrees. As I rounded into the second half of my shift, the sun finally started setting after a day of supplying us with tremendous heat.
I watched one of our tenants repeatedly go in and out of the building with a carriage full of stuff. Other tenants asked him if he would like help and he quietly replied, “No.”
As their conversations moved along, I learned that he was moving the items because his wife passed away - he was cleaning out her apartment.
Our headquarters in Providence – the building where I work, and that you can see from I95 – includes 192 units of housing for formerly homeless single adults. This man and his wife both lived here, but in separate rooms.
I started thinking about the kind of life they had living semi-apart here at Crossroads.
I asked him if he was okay as he came in from what seemed like his millionth trip. He began to tell me the story of his relationship with his wife. I asked him how was he able to maintain his relationship while living in separate apartments.
He responded, “When you say ‘I do, ‘till death do us part,’ it is not about where you live. My home was wherever my wife was. Some folks look down on the fact that we ended up here at Crossroads. They failed to look at the larger picture: we ended up together.”
My heart began to sink, and I really felt for him.
He continued, “What I am doing right now - cleaning out my wife’s room - is sad. Yes, I will have to begin another chapter in my life without her. I said, ‘I do, ‘till death do us part.’ This is the hard part. Crossroads has allowed me to grieve with dignity.”
As he concluded his story, I finished my shift. He went back to moving her things out to the trash, while sharing some of her belongings with other tenants in need.
All night, I couldn’t help but think about this man. I replayed our conversation in my head over and over. He made me realize that it wasn’t about their living situation. Even in his loss of his soulmate, he is still grateful. I thought about how powerful it is to be grateful.
Working at the Front Desk here at Crossroads, I meet a ton of folks who all have various needs. No situation is ever the same.
While we are widely known as a homeless shelter, we are so much more than that.
I didn’t really have anything to offer the tenant who lost his wife, other than to say I was sorry for his loss. He reminded me that I did help him by allowing him to speak fondly of her while his life situation was changing with each cart run he made of her belongings.
That tenant reminded me that we are all here together, no matter what our situations are. We are all connected in serving the community at large.