We miss him already! Neal just finished up his year as our Jesuit Volunteer in the Community Room at the end of July. We wanted to share the reflection that Neal shared with our members at his Goodbye Party:
To all my friends at the Maybelle Center,
My one year in the Community Room is finished! It’s time for me to move on. My next steps are going back home to Arlington, Virginia, and then visiting my family in Kolkata, India for a few months.
As my time ends, you all in the Community Room have approached me to thank me and share several kind words with me. I want to take the time to return the favor, and share some words with you all.
It’s clear to me that I’m surrounded by strong, inspiring, and loving humans here every day. Whether you only came in for five minutes to grab coffee and a cigarette, or if you came in every day, thank you for sharing your lives and stories with me. I’ve heard many powerful stories from you all – stories of struggling with addictions, of mental health challenges, of growing up with unsupportive families, and of the losses of loved ones that are heavy on our hearts.
I’ve also heard the hopeful stories – stories of new housing, new jobs, new love interests, and of renewed courage to keep going even while suffering. Your stories remind me of how much we all share – my family’s addictions and my personal struggle with depression included. Vulnerability is a strength, and you all have been so vulnerable and brave to share your stories with me – I thank you for trusting me enough with them.
On a different note, I’ve also heard far too many bad jokes and puns in this room, and despite all the groan-worthy jokes, I have to admit what great senses of humor you all have, if at times completely inappropriate.
With you all, I’ve played many games of Skip Bo and dominoes. I admired many completed puzzles. I brewed too many pots of coffee, both too strong and too weak. We danced together at the Sadie Hawkins dance. We shared our talents at the annual talent show. We ate too much birthday cake every month. We got to see the natural beauty at Wildwood. Together, I accompanied some of you to doctor’s and dentist’s visits. Some of you graciously welcomed me into your homes. We had to call 911 for various medical and safety reasons – I never thought I’d get so comfortable with seizure protocols.
We have argued, debated (notably about Trump’s politics and religion), laughed, and cried together. My biggest challenge this year has been the large number of deaths in our community. We have too many people who are gone that we have to grieve and honor. As painful as these losses are, being able to come together for memorial services here in the Community Room shows me there is a lot of love in this community, and that is beautiful.
I leave this year deeply impacted by the relationships I’ve formed here, and I’m sad that I don’t know exactly when I’ll see you all again. One of my favorite quotes is: “If your heart isn’t in it, get the rest of you out of it.” What’s hard is that even though I’m leaving, my heart feels like it’s here with you all.
I’ll think of you whenever 1960s or 1970s music comes on the radio. Or when someone tells me a really bad pun. Or when I see someone being overly generous.
Thank you all for being beautiful, flawed, and strong human beings. You remind me that I am all of these things too. I am wishing you only the best from here on out. For one last time, it’s 3:00pm and it’s time to play the song “Closing Time.”