On most days at Maryhouse, my daily tasks consist of your usual front desk activities – answering phone calls, welcoming and informing new guests of the services we provide, maintaining the front lobby, and what most people would find to be tedious work – filing mail for approximately 600 women (correct me if that amount is incorrect). Filing that amount of mail can be overwhelming to some, but it’s when you get to be the person that hands over the mail to a guest that makes it ALL WORTH IT.
On most days, I often here “mail check please” and without hesitation I respond “last name?”. This position has afforded me the blessing of learning each guests’ name very quickly, where I don’t even need to ask their name because with one glance or the sound of their voice, I already know who I’m digging through the files for. Today though, I dug through the files for a woman who was impatiently waiting for a very important, high priority piece of mail. It had been her third day in a row at my desk praying it would finally be in the file waiting for her. Today, there it was. With such pleasure I handed over a DMV envelope with her name on it, and said “would this be what you’ve been waiting for?” In a moments time, tears came to her eyes, she bowed her head down with such relief, covering her face with her hands to hide the joyous tears rolling down her cheeks. Caught up in the moment she could barely speak.
I want you to take a moment and reflect back to the day you turned 15, maybe 17, and on that day you knew you were about to take on the world no longer as a teenager, but as an adult because you hold your very first license.
Most days I hand over the mail, and hear the dull voices repeating “ugh bills, bills, bills” or when there is no mail to hand over its often “well, I guess no news is good news”. Caught off guard in this moment with a woman crying over a piece of mail, all I could think is “thank god, my co worker is standing next to me because I’m not sure how to react, I’ve never had someone cry when I handed them their mail.” I learned an ID had much more power than I had ever thought before. She stared at her ID with such joy, she was speechless.
My days at Maryhouse remind me how often an ID is needed and unfortunately, how often an ID is stolen. An ID for me at 17 meant freedom from my parents, an ID for our guests of all ages means an approved housing application, another piece to a job application completed, a way to get bus tickets, a way into a shelter, a means to claim their paycheck, proof of their legal name and birthday, to keep a car, to go to school, to receive social services, and a sense of identity. She came back the next day to apologize for her previous tears, stating “I’m so sorry, I was just so happy that ID means I can start my life again.”