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For the past few months, the same memory has been floating up to the top of my mind. I figured I might as well share it here. I think it might be a reminder to share more of myself than just what I think are ‘important woo things’, because its a reminder that its the little things which can make the biggest difference


When I was as the end of my time in massage school, we were sent out on a variety of externships to get practice with real world clients. For one of mine, I chose to go give massage at a group home for mentally ill folks, many of whom were (recently) formerly homeless, who were at a point in their treatment where they were transitioning back into living and working. We were giving relaxation chair massages, nothing fancy. It was mostly a chance to practice intake and working with strangers. I was in my white pants and fancy little polo shirt from the school, looking all neat and professional for all that we were throwing pillows and towels on a table for folks to lean on – no actual massage chairs were available for offsite work.

My last client of the day was late and not a happy camper, but I didn’t have to be anywhere and he looked like he needed the massage. I sat there while he painstakingly filled out his intake form in wobbly block print, hands shaking the entire time. He had trouble spelling, especially his medications. He asked me how to spell one of his meds – seroquel.

I told him, and mentioned I took it as well, and he was so surprised. Its hard to describe, so many years later, when I can’t recall the exact words. But while before we started we talked a little. I was taking seroquel at the time because I used to depersonalize; for a very long time, my doctors thought I was bipolar (long story short, while I am OCD and clinically depressed, the BPD was a side effect of the hormones I’d been on.) I told him that I was bipolar, and he said he was too. That some of the meds he was on made his hands shake and his muscles hurt. And he was amazed to see that I was doing “So well”, even though I didn’t feel like I was at the time. Shit, I still don’t feel like that. But just that little bit of sharing made a huge difference to him. He left that day smiling, because he said he figured if I could be ok and be doing so well as a massage student and what not, that he could do ok too.

Its a good reminder for me that how we perceive our selves against others is relative – I certainly didn’t feel like I had my life together compared to other folks I knew, but to this man, I was a light in  a dark place. And I learned that sharing some of the things folks hide about themselves can make a huge difference to someone struggling with the same thing.

 

 

 
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Posted by on June 4, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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Today, I would like to talk about Luke.

Luke is a homeless man I see regularly when I’m heading home from work. He’s usually right at 40th street near the SEPTA station. I was seeing him every Saturday after work for a while, and I would stop and give him change or food or something – I usually tried to have something. I’d swing by Wawa and get a big ass meat hoagie and a coffee and stuff, or grab a couple of extra bagels at work or part of my lunch. It usually worked out that I had something.

It occurred to me one day that I ought to ask him his name, since I saw him so much, and I have a feeling people don’t stop and talk to him often. I see lots of people just drive right by. He remembers my face and my car, but usually forgets my name. Once I got into a little fender bender and he came over to see how I was – thankfully the other dude just decided we could drive away!

But I hadn’t seen Luke for a few weeks, and I had been hoping he found somewhere warmer to be for the season. Then I saw him yesterday while I was driving home. I said hello and gave him a dollar (all I had at the moment) and he asked my name again, and then I cried the rest of the drive home because it was so cold out. (I’m trying not to cry now at work while thinking about it). My house mate works for one of the Philadelphia Domestic Violence hotlines – I know how hard it is to find and get into a shelter here WITH help, let alone figuring out yourself. And I can imagine there are plenty of reasons why one wouldn’t want to go either.

So as soon as I got home, I put one of my spare quilts in a bag, and my housemate gave me a pair of gloves and scarf and a hat, and I had a spare scarf too, and I ran back out and stopped to get a bagel and some coffee, since we didn’t have anything around the house. However, by the time I got back there, Luke was gone and there was a cop at the intersection directing traffic (on the way home I had passed a fire truck and they had partially closed a street – by the time I made it back over there they had closed things down farther) I assumed he scarpered as soon as the police showed up – he had told me a couple of weeks before that he had been hassled by cops (I think he said it was the FBI. I’m not sure if he’s paranoid or not, but it was right when all the Ferguson protests were really in high gear, so I wouldn’t be surprised if they had given him grief.

I walked around a bit, figuring he’d have gone the opposite directions of the cops, but it was getting very late, and very cold, and finding one single person who’s probably always moving isn’t easy. So I left the bag in my car and if I see him again, they’re his.  I took the coffee and on my way home , walked through the park and said a prayer to the Wight of West Philly for him and poured it out.

Part of me feels like a dick – I had been thinking I ought to walk back one of these days to talk to him, to find out his story and how he wound up here, and this was the first time.

While walking, I realized our stories probably aren’t that different. A human was born. Then, shit happened. The difference is what happened after shit happened, I would assume. Much as I can dislike, them, I have blood family who will help, and an extended network of tribe, kindred and friends to help me

On my walk home, I was crossing the street and looked down and saw this painted on the side-walk: “This one time, I almost did something, and then I didn’t”

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I had said to myself a couple of times before, I ought to stop and talk to him, and of course the one time I did, this is what happened – I missed him. But I’m glad I Did The Thing – or at least, Tried to Do The Thing.

I was thinking, on my walk to find him, about how I was raised in New York/Long Island. The ‘secret’, the ‘trick’ to dealing with NYC was no eye contact. You never look at the homeless – your eyes slide right past them, and you pretend they don’t exist, and that’s how you get by. I had shaken this habit off in the past few year, but I didn’t realize quite how fucked up it was until very recently.

Realistically, there isn’t much I can do to help – I can’t find him a place to stay, I can’t feed him forever, i can’t fix whatever it was that brought him to where he is now. But the least I can do is acknowledge him as a person, as a fucking human being. I can’t help everyone.

But at the bare minimum, I can look people in the eye, call them by name, and shake their hand. I can treat them like people. All of us can do that. We can take back a little bit of our own humanity by honoring the humanity of others, and not walking past them like nothing.

Hospitality is more than having food and drink for your guests; it is more than what goes on in our own homes. I am engaging in hospitality by sharing what I have with those who don’t, and by honoring the human that they are, flaws, issues and all.

 
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Posted by on January 6, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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