It was a week of hearts breaking open, sadness pouring out, sorrow lifting up. It was a week of self-love pushing away hatred, peace embracing anger, forgiveness cascading over resentment.
It was a week of hopelessness transforming into hope, of possibility awakening in the depths of despair, of new life breathing deeply into the darkness that once held hearts frozen in fear.
It was a week coaching at Choices.
And I am grateful.
I am often asked why I volunteer so much time coaching at Choices.
There is so much value I receive by staying involved with the program.
It makes my life and all my relationships better.
It keeps me using the tools I’ve learned through the program so that old habits don’t break down new ways of living life on the far side of my comfort zone.
It helps me stay on track, accountable, and present in my life.
It gives me a chance to give back.
It keeps me connected to people who want to create a world of difference in their lives and in the world around them.
And then, there is the very real and simple reason I experienced this week.
It reminds me that there is hope and possibility for change in every life. It reminds me that in a world filled with darkness, there is light.
On Thursday afternoon last week, I received a call from a former co-worker at the homeless shelter where I used to work. He told me someone I know had been killed. A suspicious death, the police termed it. The investigation into who or what killed him continues but for Ryan Delve, all hope of finding another path to live his life without fearing each step would lead him deeper into the darkness of homelessness died on Thursday, June 4, 2015.
It was the end of his road.
Ryan was an artist. I wrote of him last year when he participated in an art show I helped organize and he chose to donate a painting to the silent auction we held in support of Alpha House, a shelter here in the city.
Like all of us, Ryan had hopes and dreams and a fervent desire to live better, live well, live beyond his past.
Like all of us, Ryan knew what it felt like to lose at love, to be hurt by another, to be lost in confusion of where to go next.
Like all of us, Ryan knew joy, laughter, sadness, despair, anger, fear, peace, love…
Like all of us, Ryan lived his human condition as best he could, doing whatever he could to get from A to B with the tools and resources he had available.
Like few of us, Ryan knew the homeless experience. He lived it. Every day. Even when he was housed briefly over the past year, the shadow of homelessness clouded his world, luring him back to its darkness.
When I heard the news of Ryan’s passing I stood in the hallway outside the room where the trainees were deeply into a process and felt the heaviness and futility of homelessness sink into my heart as quickly as a stone falls to the bottom of a well. My heart felt heavy, tight, constricted.
I asked a friend who was also coaching to chat with me for a moment. I needed to make sense of the senselessness of it all.
My friend R.A. asked if he could say a prayer for Ryan. I said yes.
In that moment of standing with my eyes closed, holding loving thoughts of Ryan and all those who live in the darkness of homelessness in my thoughts, peace descended.
It is true. I could not change the path that Ryan was on, just as I cannot change the paths of the thousands who live on the streets, in shelters, and on the margins of our society.
I can add my best to what we as a community are doing to make a difference to change the trajectory of homelessness into possibility. I can hold space for those who are walking the streets to find their way back home.
And, I can walk every day in peace, love, harmony, joy. I can create space for possibility to arise, for hope to stay present, for change to happen. I can add my best to what so many others are doing to ensure we do not lose more people to homelessness.
And to do that, to hold space, to hold onto possibility, to create opportunities for change and not become burdened by the heaviness and sadness of homelessness, I coach at Choices.
At Choices I am reminded every day that there is hope, possibility and light in the darkness.
I am reminded that hearts can break open in love, that anger can flow free through forgiveness and that darkness always gives way to light.
I believe we can end homelessness, just as I believe we can create a better world for everyone.
To do my part, I must give my best. To give my best, I must surround myself with people who remind me every day to find value in all things, to live my truth and stand up for what I believe in.
We are all one in our human condition and when we share our light together, when we shine as one, as brightly as we can, the darkness fades, hope arises and possibility opens up in all our lives.