A silent night.

Outgoing holiday message set, decorations down, packed and stored for another year, tonight I flipped the switch and twisted my key to its final click of the year on the office door, marking the end of a job well done and more than a wish granted.

Arms loaded with lingering projects for my week off between the holidays, I paused to look back at that same door, reflecting in the darkness of the evening, and I had myself a nostalgic cry.

Thousands came through that portal this year seeking help, looking for a home, food, safety, hope, a respite from the circumstances of a very difficult year none of them ever expected, and most of all, a second chance.  2016 will be remembered by most as a rough year that didn’t grant many second chances, wishes or do-overs.  But we did.  It marked the start of our 25th year of service to the neediest of our community, having entered as the top nonprofit of Southern Nevada — a couple proud achievements, but by no means our greatest.

As staff cleaned up the office for our post-holiday return, what captured my heart were the private conversations I overheard among small couplings of our frazzled dozen recalling stories from the year about this woman, that family, a senior citizen, that man and his child and the difference they hoped they’d made to ease their year’s burdens.

More than a few hugs and tears punctuated today. Consensus was that we each believe we are called to be doing these right things with our lives.  We might be able to earn more elsewhere if it was just work.  But it’s not.  No other job pays the lasting emotional dividends we earn right here.

I emptied my arms into the back seat of my car and closed the door. Strapped in and backing out to go make my own holidays with my family until the new year, I made a final glance at the door through my tears.  But my glance was diverted upwards to a light overhead and centered above the rooftop in the night sky.

The first and brightest evening star.

It was the best drive home, on a silent night, and a year of Christmas wishes granted.