I’m cozied up on my couch awaiting the season’s first snowfall. I’ve struggled all weekend to get the heat just right in my apartment and am tearing through my repertoire of sweat pants and sweaters at a frightening pace. Reading these words, you’d think I still live in Connecticut. But no, I live in the Deep South. It just goes to show that a lot can change in one’s life, and surprisingly, life can stay very much the same. Most of that’s been by design on my part, save for the wintry weather.
I still walk everywhere I can, refusing to use my car for errands under a mile away even though that means I am usually the only person pushing a cart across town with my groceries. And I’ve found a coffee shop where I know at least one of the baristas by name. I scour the community paper for interesting events and concerts to attend, and I try to be hopeful that I will meet good people. Of course, I am continuing my work as a sexual assault victims’ advocate. I’m happy to report that I am almost through the process of becoming a volunteer at the rape crisis center at a local hospital even though the hospital’s emphasis on testing me for tuberculosis has me a little freaked out.
Volunteering in a hospital definitely comes with its own set of pros and cons. The exposure to disease thing, well, I’m just going to ignore that for now. But I am relieved to know I won’t work with child victims because Atlanta has a great children’s hospital nearby they’d go to instead. Every night that I was on call in Connecticut, I’d ask God to help me help whoever called the hotline or needed me at the hospital. But I would beg him to not let it be a child. I didn’t trust myself to handle the horror of seeing a child victim. I know I am supposed to be better than that, but I am not.
One or two nights per month, I will take on a 12-hour shift and sleep overnight at the hospital in a room just for rape crisis volunteers. That way, we meet incoming victims right away, instead of tearing across town in our cars trying to get to the emergency room in time. I am going to try to take shifts on a Friday or Saturday night because those nights are so active for this crime and because it will be a way for me to check my ego about going out and being wasteful with the good life I’ve been afforded.
Yesterday, I saw my college volleyball team play a match in town. Sitting in the stands, I was flooded with thoughts about all the things I wished for myself when I was playing there and how far off I’ve been from some of those goals, and how spot on I’ve been with others. And it occurred to me that who I am and where my heart’s at has never really changed no matter the litter of addresses in my wake, the people who have come and gone, or the painful life lessons. We might shed the skin we’re in, but that’s all we shed. We can change our appearance or possessions, we can change our friends or our affinities, but we cannot change our flaws or our gifts and what speaks to our souls. And we can move 1,000 miles away from everything that’s familiar – and love it – but still find ourselves eagerly awaiting something so simple and infinitely tied to what we left behind: a snowflake.