I’m sitting in my favorite hipster coffee shop in the entire city of Denver sipping a lavender latte out of a mason jar. I just returned from a day hanging out in the Family Area at The Gathering Place, the day shelter where I served during my full-time volunteer year with Urban Servant Corps. I reconnected with old coworkers, chatted with this year’s full-time volunteers, and played some serious Legos with my new four-year-old friends. Yesterday I shared coffee, lunch, and life giving conversation with fellow former volunteers and housemates. The day before, I wandered around downtown and to my favorite parks and coffee shops, retracing the paths my Chacos know so well. A dear college friend and I ventured into the mountains that still leave me in complete awe of their beauty. I drank delicious coffee and good beer and soaked in the Colorado sunshine. As I type this, I am feeling gloriously content.
I also managed to miss four buses in a row as I attempted to navigate public transportation, accidentally stood up my former USC-ers at happy hour, and scheduled and rescheduled coffee dates and visits because I simply could not seem to get my life together. My friend and I got lost on our mountain trail and remembered just how out of shape we are as we attempted to hike back to where we were supposed to be. I remembered the stress and emotional weight of working in a shelter and felt weirdly disoriented as I stepped back into a world that seems like a distant dream. Visiting my old haunts felt simultaneously comforting and a little lonely when I thought of the community of people who shared that intense, beautiful, messy year with me and the far-away places around the country where they now reside.
My visit to Denver has been in many ways a microcosm of my year of service in this city. It was exciting and fun and uncomfortable and painful all at once. But through each moment of joy and of reunion and nostalgia and each scheduling mishap and recognition of privilege and pang of loneliness, I felt entirely held in Grace. Grace from my good natured USC family who laughed off the fact that I accidentally ditched them all and rearranged their schedules to meet with me later; grace from the kiddos who asked me to play Legos and handed me a pile of crayons within minutes of me entering the Family Area; grace from a city that welcomed me with a Colorado sunshine-y embrace in one moment and reminded me that I still have so much to learn in the next.
Here’s to you, Denver: the city that taught me how to live loved and to love well in return. A city that is filled with imperfection and hurt and a complicated mix of narratives of power and privilege and oppression. A city in which the Spirit of abundant Grace continues to breathe Life and Love and Mercy.