8/31/2016: Jesus. At the Smiths [grocery store] at 9th and 9th, a homeless mom pushing a shopping cart filled with their stuff and her dazed-looking teen son with auburn hair and freckles following her riding his bike, bags hanging from the handlebars and backpack on his back that had a fucking poster sticking out the top of it.
Oh dear god. I had to sit down on a bench because I was shocked to tears. Our homeless shelters are currently full so there is nowhere for them to go.
Come fucking on.
How much trauma are we all supposed to bear witness to and still keep ourselves emotionally afloat? Just because we are not walking the streets with our homeless teenagers doesn’t mean we aren’t gutted when we see it happening to someone else.
And I was going to go on an epic rant and go off Facebook again because: its me! I know that I’m part of the problem; of course I am; I have to be. Because we are ALL the problem and the solution; that’s just the way the balance of the universe works.
But rants and self-flagellation are indulgences when someone else is hungry and a teen boy has to walk the streets with a lifetime of prized possessions sticking out the top of a backpack. So I went to Liberty Park and tried to see if they were there. I had $30, and a kind word. But they weren’t there.
Our government SHOULD be our village. But it’s not. We are the village. We are the boots on the ground; we are the ones witnessing and experiencing this trauma together. We are the solution.
And if we can’t shelter our village in our own home then at least we can shelter them in our own hearts with a kind word, a smile, money, a bag of food, a bottled water, or even a simple blessing said quietly to ourselves that their hard times are bringing to them a future of more infinite joy.
May we all listen to our hearts and heed what it says. Our village needs us.
And to the dear Mother of the red-haired boy: next time I see you, I’ll be ready.
Post Script 9/1/2016: I spent about an hour at Liberty Park yesterday, looking for these people, sitting and reflecting.
I don’t believe in accidents; I’ve accepted that Life will include pain and suffering, including my own; I believe that sometimes to get to self-love (which naturally includes love of others too) you have to take a path through dark people and scary times and traumatic events; I know that the journey is fraught because our supposed allies—like religions–tell us foolish things we believe are true, like how inherently selfish it is to put ourselves first (as if being an advocate for ourselves is somehow shameful), which prevents us from adequately using our energy and thoughts so as to become our best selves.
So I knew this experience had occurred to do something for me–to change my thinking, to change who I am. I knew all that.
I just didn’t care.
Because I didn’t want some big bullshit mental pep talk about how wonderful the Universe is and how connected we all are and how pain is such a great teacher.
I didn’t want to get all dreamy and passive and accepting and Love Love Love.
I wanted peace. I wanted the pain to stop. I wanted “basic human nature 101”: release me from this shit right now.
But the experience wasn’t over, for as I sat on a bench at the park, I opened my email and up popped one from a writer friend in Oregon, telling me that he’d had me in mind when he was stopped by a panhandling couple outside a restaurant, engaged them in conversation, listened to their story, checked for track marks, and handed them money to cover a hostel for a night. He said he’d never usually do that but he felt like reaching out and listening to them was the right thing to do, and the rest just bubbled from there. He also said some other things, and together, it barreled me down until as I got into my car, I was crying with joy.
For his email message received at just that time—when I was low and tenderized, and having just finished writing this emotional Instagram post beseeching us all to see the village that needs us, and to shelter one another with compassion and kindness–was like the universe telling me how much it cared about me, and how much it cares about us all. How—even in the midst of Human Nature 101—the imperceptible connections between us exist, and that Truth is fortunately bigger than me, and doesn’t listen to my discomfort knowing—as it does—the extreme gratitude that is experienced in making the leap from despair to joy.