First of all, I was unusually tired as I arrived for my shift. The past week had been chaotic, and I was definitely on the verge of not going to the shelter at all. But then something my Dad said to me a long time ago came to mind. "No matter how bad you think your life is, you can bet that someone else's life is worse. Help them out and both of you will feel better." I knew that there were people in that shelter whose week had been far worse than mine, in ways that I didn't even want to imagine.
I arrived to the shelter and started to check in the women and children. I was chatting it up with the women, breathalyzing as I went. By the way, there is no non-awkward way to give someone a breathalyzer. So, acting as if it is a normal, everyday occurrence that happens in all conversations, I just continue listening and talking as if nothing is out of place.
I know the regulars well. Kenitra and her two kids (who are chasing each other around the room). Check. Jannette. Check. Barbara. Check. Janette. Check.
And the newbies, like Valerie and her two-month old baby (so precious).
Classes start at 8. I usually watch the younger kids while their moms are in class. That night was no different. I watched Kimone (pronounced "key-money") and Tay, ages 1 and 2, respectively.
About thirty minutes later, I was about to cry out of sheer frustration (and the bleeding scratch on my face). Both boys were crying (well, more like wailing and screaming), and I wanted to join them. Kelley, my manager, came downstairs asking if I was okay. I said I was frustrated but fine--attempting to teach a lesson in sharing. He understood immediately. He offered his assistance until their mom got back from class. I was infinitely grateful and exhausted.
I went back into the office to talk to Rhonda. She told me that the new woman, Valerie, had left with her two-month old baby. We were both concerned--it was a cool and rainy night. Where did they go? I could only pray they had family or friends around the area. I didn't want to think about that baby living on the streets. No way. I couldn't handle it. I was already tired and still bleeding a little.
Kelley looked at my face and said, "Please go home. I've got the rest of the night covered." Without a word of resistance, I breathed a heartfelt "Thank you." He walked me to my car, and I went home. Grateful, more than ever, to have a home to go to.