At The Night Ministry

I mentioned this young mother from the shelter before. T. was the one who told me one night when I was about to leave: Ms. Henrietta, do you know that you need to be here every night? And I told her that I knew, and if I had seven lives, my one life would be in the shelter every night. 

And then there was another time when she was very harsh with her 3-year-old daughter, and I wanted to interfere but felt strongly that we were not close enough yet for me to interfere. The only suggestion I made was to help a little girl stop crying by putting damp clothes on her face. 

Later that evening, T. came over to me and asked when I would come next time and what we would cook. She wanted to try to make borshch, and I told her that we would need to make two soups because not everybody likes beets, and she said she was up to the challenge.

We walked to the volunteer coordinator and asked him what day I could come, and he said – November 2. I asked her: will you survive until November 2? and she nodded.

Out volunteer coordinator took a short vacation right before November 2, and on November 1, his flight got canceled. He messaged me in the morning that we would need to cancel and asked whether I could come Wednesday or Thursday. I had something on both days, and I told him I would come next week. 

That day was yesterday. I came in, put my backpack down, and asked the staff whether the produce was in the kitchen. He replied: I have bad news for you: one is that we have no cabbage. I started saying that they should have told me and I could pick it up and it should not be last-minute shopping, and well, we will make borshch another time, I just promised T… He continued: and another bad news is that T. is not here anymore.

It was not that I was shocked. I said: that’s really bad news, not like I am surprised, but… what happened? He replied: she was discharged for acting violently. 

I know that our program’s success rate is low if you judge not by the number of youth placed into jobs and got their housing, so for T., it might not work anyway. Still, I feel that I was so close to being able to help her, and I didn’t.

***

I came home very late and went to check for mail. I saw a Thanksgiving card from the Night Ministry in my mailbox – the one they send every year for all staff, donors, and volunteers. I took the card out and opened it quickly to read a message from the Vice President – I knew she would add a couple of her personal words as she always does. To my surprise, I read: Hettie, what a beautiful picture of you! Then, I turned the card the other way and saw that I was indeed featured on this year’s Thanksgiving card!  

An honor and a gift for me

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