How do you say good-bye?
It’s a question that I often neglect to ask myself. In fact, many times I find myself taking for granted that the people who are in my life today will always be there. There’s safety found in the familiar, and too many times I find myself realizing that what I’ve known is coming to an end without any clue how to come to terms with it.
If you’ve set foot in Carmichael Outreach over the last 18 years, chances are you’ve met Margaret. You might have heard one of our friends call her Margarito, but more than likely if you’ve spent any time around the building, you’ve heard her called “mom” – the strand that holds Carmichael together. After 18 years of life, passion, determination, community, or whatever else you can call what happens at Carmichael Outreach, the one constant has been Margaret. After 18 years of mamma Margaret spending her retirement from her work with the City of Regina behind the front desk at Carmichael there’s so much that can be said, and so little that can accurately describe what she has meant each one of us who saw her every day.
I remember as a child, attempting to drive through a blizzard with my dad and brother in the middle of the most intense blizzard I have ever experienced. The snow was blinding, the wind howling, and everything inside of me knew that we were in a dangerous situation. As we made our way home, I remember looking for anything familiar that would let me know that we were “home”. The feeling of relief that flooded over me as we turned up our driveway after seeing one tiny landmark is one that has stayed with me through the years.
In truth, Margaret was that feeling that you were home and you were safe. Perhaps it was why so many called her mom. No one has better exemplified the passion and vision of our founder and original Executive Director, George Palmer. In the early years, it was just Margaret and George. For those of us who came to Carmichael towards the end of George’s life, Margaret was our connection to what made, and makes this place special. In everything she did, she treated people with respect and dignity, and like any good mamma bear, she protected those she cared for.
As she retires, I’m forced to reflect on what made her so special, and I have realized it’s not so complex. She cared about relationships more than programs and showed that ending homelessness in our community starts and ends there. She cared about understanding each person she saw each day – her desk was littered with trinkets that were always in the way of my mail folder, but were precious gifts to her from people she loved. Her attention to what mattered – relationships, honesty, integrity, and consistency are what left us all wondering at the end of her retirement party yesterday, “what are we supposed to do now?”
I found myself walking into work today looking for the sign that I was home, and it felt empty without her at her desk. I know for many of us around here, it felt the same. In time, if we follow in her footsteps, we will find ourselves becoming that safe place for each other.
I used to hope that when I left Carmichael, that people would see the work I did and be proud of it, that people would say, “he was part of ending homelessness in our community.” Now, I hope that when I leave, people will remember me like they remember Margaret – a safe place, a welcoming place, part of the family.
So, I might know how to say good-bye, but I know how to say thank-you. So, thanks “mom”, for 18 years of gentle reminders about what really matters. We’ll miss you.
Written by Tyler Gray – Communications, Advocacy, and Projects Coordinator at Carmichael Outreach