While Hugh is on the road today, we are reprinting this month’s newsletter from him. To receive your own copy in your inbox each month, please click here. Thanks and peace, Jasmin
Her name is Janice, and I’ve known her for years. She’s in her mid-sixties, was married once, and then wasn’t. Janice lost custody of their daughter to his family, who had a lot more money than she did, and they kept her daughter away. She got a small job that paid for a small apartment. Here she drank tea, painted pictures, and listened to jazz when she wasn’t at her job. And she avoided people, because she wasn’t going to be hurt again.
Her apartment was gentrified, and she had to move out when the rent tripled. With the loss of stability, she lost the job. She eventually ended up on the streets, where she could keep her distance from people.
This spring, something shifted. Janice got a small terrier named Frank. Frank’s provenance is sketchy – all she says is that he chose her. And if you saw them together, you would believe it – Janice and Frank are inseparable.
Janice and Frank also started coming to Love Wins to hang out with us. She would sit in the smoking area outside, and Frank would sit at her feet. People would come up and pet Frank, and they would talk to Janice. On good days she would make conversation. On bad days she would snap and tell people to leave them alone.
She became something of a cranky grandmother for the kids that come through. She would tell the teenage moms what they were doing wrong, and sometimes, was even nice about it. To see her play with the kids would have broken your heart. She was experiencing a nostalgia for a past she never got to have.
Around the end of summer, she wanted to talk to me.
“I’m afraid, Hugh. I care about all these kids and their moms. And I am afraid because I know they will disappear too, and then I will hurt again. And I am really tired of hurting. So, I think I am going to take Frank and hit the road.”
She didn’t come back the next day.
But then I recently saw her sitting on the steps of the museum, reading a library book in the glow of the streetlights. It was around suppertime, and it was dark outside. I walked over and asked if I could sit with her. There was no sign of Frank.
“Frank is with a friend, who’s watching him for me. I’m in a program at the shelter now.”
I must have looked shocked because she laughed.
“Hugh, I think something is wrong with me. I’ve met some people, and I don’t hate them. I even met another woman at the shelter, and we are thinking about getting an apartment together. A roommate! Can you believe that?”
It was my turn to laugh. I asked what happened.
“Well, Hugh. I’m not getting any younger. And if something happens to me, who’s going to take care of Frank? And I remembered what you said – that keeping people out meant I wouldn’t get hurt, but it also meant I missed out on being loved. And I let Frank in, and that worked out okay.
So I am trying. I am trying real hard. And sometimes, I even find myself forgetting that it’s hard.”
Thanksgiving is next week. And this has been a hard year for us here at Love Wins, but a good year, too. We have gotten a whole new team of employees and volunteers. We have had people we care about die and seen people like Janice find hope. And I watched a mutt melt a hardened woman’s heart and give her a reason to try again.
And for that, I am thankful.