Farewell, Friends!

Written by Elli Grapp

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After what has felt like an incredibly short 9 months on The Human Impact team, I am sad to announce that I am already moving on to the next adventure. My significant other and I are moving to Omaha, where he got his dream job as a Great Ape Keeper at the Henry Doorly Zoo. We’ll also be a short two hours away from my family, which will be so welcome when our baby boy arrives in July! I wanted to share some reflections on my time here and how this work has impacted me. Here are just a few lessons I learned:

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Be thankful, no matter your circumstances. Some things that I struggle with in my day-to-day life include occasionally feeling “tight” on money (although I have never been late paying rent or gone hungry), dealing with family and friend drama, and experiencing the purest form of frustration when I go to Panera and they don’t have Cream of Chicken and Wild Rice soup… Now here are some things our friends on the streets struggle with: having little to no income, not receiving adequate health care or medication, waiting on housing priority lists for months without any idea when they may be able to leave the shelter, battling addiction alone, …I could go on. Our friends have taught me that no matter what life throws at you, no matter how bad you seem to have screwed things up, there’s always a reason to hold your head high and keep moving forward.

Listen to words, but trust actions. This works both ways in our work. We spend a lot of time listening to our friends promise things that they don’t deliver on. Promising that they’ll go to rehab next week, promising that they’ll be ready to meet us for coffee on Tuesday. But they have also heard a lot of promises made to them. People promising that they’ll be housed by the end of the year, promising that if they fill out this application, they’ll be approved for benefits. The saying really is true that talk is cheap, and no one understands this better than our friends on the streets. It’s why our work is so long term – because healthy relationships are long term! Invest your time and resources into the relationships you care about.

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We all just want to feel valued. The most rewarding part of my job has been watching people see their value through the eyes of those who truly care about them. Seeing Peggy light up at her birthday party. Vincent’s incredulity that we would sit at the hospital all day for him. Tony’s joy at being treated to a traditional Nigerian lunch. It has been my favorite part of this job: to make people feel seen, heard, and valued. As I have been saying goodbye over the past few weeks, I have been moved to see my own value through the eyes of my friends on the streets. People have expressed everything from happiness for me and this new opportunity to genuine disappointment at my leaving. But everyone has been sure to express that I would be missed and that I am loved. Talk about a tear-jerker…

I don’t feel like there is any way to truly bring closure to this “job” because these lessons are ones that I plan on carrying with me through life. All I can say is that I’m so lucky to have met so many people over the past year that make saying goodbye so difficult.

Much love, friends!

Elli