After twenty-five years of counseling children and teens in a cozy corner of Town Hall it is time to move down the hall to another space being built for us.
Twenty-five years anywhere, let alone in one location is a heck of a long time. Whenever I start whining about moving my colleagues in this industry laugh at me and say they’ve moved dozens of times in half as many years, from job to job and from one closet-sized office to the next dugout within the same agency. And of course I know they’re right.
I counsel and I teach. And one of the things I teach youth within my care is to pay attention. In twenty-five years, location becomes place, and place becomes life, and life makes memories of joys and tears and everything between. Our present office may be just that, an office with an attached large meeting room for groups, but it has seen people of all ages, some walking in with their week-old babies, or others carrying tragic news of family violence, sometimes death or news that daddy went to jail. The doors of 118 have seen parents and kids aplenty, and spanning twenty-five, have seen State Police, FBI, politicians, good cops, bad cops, the hungry and homeless, newlyweds and immigrants, some lonely, some lost and others to celebrate. They came, all of them, because these doors were open and someone on the other side was there to pay attention.
Tossing, shredding, organizing what to keep and let go of is good inner soul work and there’s nothing like a forced move to make that happen. Town Hall has a mini-fleet of huge, green recycling bins on wheels that are taller than half the young folks in my care. Filling them with youthful help is both pleasant and instructive. I handle everything that goes and think about the circumstances of the persons and events around each thing who’s time has come; a former client’s demo cassette of his garage band in 1988, A once colorful drawing, a gift to me by a second grader that fell in pieces when I took it off the wall, are all handed to eager waiting fingers in a race to fill what they’ve playfully named the “big green monster man.”
It strikes me that almost everything I toss is older than my youthful charges. And as we toss and pack up what to take their wisdom of a dozen-plus years keeps me dealing with the here and now through their chatter:
“You wouldn’t throw away anything I gave you, right, Kevin?”
“No, of course not, Sarah.”
Kassie, hogging and hovering over her high value assignment, the shredder, says, “When I first came to group I thought you lived here…in this office. Like, when we left and went home, you stayed here until we came back again…”
“That’s funny, “but trust me, “I go home at night, thank goodness.”
“Wait,” says Aaron, “Twenty-five years in here? That’s twice my lifetime. That’s just weird to think about.”
“You’re telling me?”
“Mollie, who’s real specialty is watching others work, is plopped on the couch, staring at the ceiling and chimes in, “I think that you should just stay here. I like it here. Why can’t you just tell them you’re not gonna move, Kevin?”
“Ah, my dear, it just doesn’t work that way.”
“Why not?” she insists.
James, who is slow to speak but when he does his peers are listening, cuts in saying, “Don’t be dumb! It’s just another office just like this one…with new paint. And, its got a bathroom in it too! That’s cool.”
”True, bathrooms are good.”
Mollie sat up and stared at James like she had just had some kind of a revelation and says, “You mean we don’t have to use the public bathrooms anymore?”
“Okay,”she says, “I’ll move.”
“Here then,” setting a box on her lap, “Carry this down to our new home, please.”