I remember when I was just 16,
So much of my life was yet unseen.
I was searching for something to help me discover,
What set me apart, made me different from others.
And there in my neighborhood, where we all came of age,
We all were aware of that place “up the way.”
Where they kept all the people who were “sick in their minds,”
Locked safely away, with “the rest of their kind.”
And that was a place made of scary stories,
A place that we feared and filled us with worry.
How could we ever truly feel safe,
When the day might come when they all could escape?
But then one day, at just 16,
I wanted to see what I’d never seen.
So I went with my friends to that place “up the way.”
To sing Christmas carols one cold winter’s day.
And there I witnessed such sad desolation,
People forgotten in stark isolation.
And I saw them smile through the hell of their lives,
And it filled me with joy that I felt deep inside.
And after that moment, it all became clear,
That I had discovered why God put me here.
And on that day, at just 16,
I knew what my life could one day mean.
How lucky I was to know it was right,
That these lost, lonely souls become part of my life.
And for 36 years, I worked in that “place”,
And not a moment of time would I ever erase.
And through those years, I learned on my way,
That these people I shared my life with each day,
Were not very different from the rest of us here.
They laughed and they loved and they struggled with fears.
And what they all wished for, when they woke up each day,
Was to finally be trusted to find their own way.
To be part of a world that so misunderstood,
And could see them as special, and “normal”, and good.
Well now I’m retired, a long way from 16.
I’ve lived many years and a great deal I have seen.
But I thank God for the gift that he gave me each day,
And for guiding my heart to that place “up the way.”