Have a Good Night

It’s an automatic phrase, something you say without thinking. Until you say it to a homeless teenager.

Last week I volunteered at the Seattle YouthCare Orion Center. I helped make dinner — chicken chili, cheesy bread and salad — and served to a couple dozen homeless young people, mostly teenagers.

They were typical teens. Some were shy, some were boisterous. Some were hungry and asked for seconds. Some didn’t want to eat anything green. Sriracha on everything.

As I served, there were many heartbreaking “thank-yous” and smiles. Some jokes and laughs and complements to the chef. Some half-eaten bowls of chili.

When dinner service ended and it came time to say goodbye, I had to edit myself. “Good night” to a teenager whose housing situation is unstable is inadequate. In fact, it was a reminder that the night might not be “good” at all.

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