Having just come from getting fingerprinted so I can teach in the local schools, I was sitting in my car emailing a response to my friend about a Creativity Circle she is orchestrating. Hell yeah — I’ll hit that! Part of my self-defined Creativity Quest and Dragon Whispering syllabus includes a weekly meditation workbook by Lynn V. Andrews called The Love and Power Journal. Guess what it’s about? Making room for Love and walking in Personal Power.
Week Five’s assignment is to be mindful of mirrors: those upside-the-head-with-a-wet-fish slappers that we dismiss in our-whacked out, dis-integrated Western lifestyle. Think heart-grabbers, emotional triggers, places where we get stuck, and surprise meetings. These things facilitate our spiritual and emotional health if we can discern them when they show up and extract from them their lessons. It is worthwhile to attend to these ‘mirrors’.
I’m still in the car, clumsily emailing from my phone: yes, sign me up for the Creativity Circle! when my eye discerns activity. I look up.
An oversized, dingy-pink fleece zip up jacket and grey stretch-waistband pants carry a nondescript woman down the alley, cardboard fruit crate in tow. They weave their way over to a motley batch of soon-to-be-discarded buckets and bags of potting soil loitering at the side of my garage. As the responsibility of a procrastinator, the buckets and bags may be there for some time, so I generously hop out of the car to offer her the chance to take them off my hands. I’m a giver. (It is that kind of neighborhood. Had a guy take a gas stove off my porch and thanked him sincerely for asking.)
“Hey, feel free to take any of that stuff if you could use it.”
The nondescript woman begins to speak. She has no teeth. “My husband died a week ago of a heart attack. I don’t have a home, and I am looking for food.”
Sensing a shift in agenda, I offer the arms-length suggestions that come naturally. “Have you tried any of the shelters?” [I’m already thinking about what I have in my car that can help this woman. Without getting too involved. Ah, a bag of clothes about to be donated (truth be told, they’ve been in the trunk about as long as the bucket/bag gang squatting next to my garage). I just bought a big water and some Mango Green Tea from Trader Joe’s. Internal dialogue racing: ‘The Green Tea: really? Can’t we keep that?” I hope she doesn’t ask for a sleeping bag. Mine’s a good one.]
“Yes, they won’t take a woman by herself unless she has a husband or a child. I went to the places where they serve meals and they just say ‘kitchen closed’.” I would be more skeptical if I hadn’t called for resources to help in the event that my ex went postal when I left. (He didn’t of course, but I felt better knowing what was at my disposal, and… not much.)
“You were living somewhere a week ago. What happened to your house?” I’m out of the car now, somewhere between suspicion and Pollyanna, heading to the trunk for that sweater.
“His family came in and kicked me to the curb. And they took my grand-daughter,” she follows me to the trunk. “I haven’t eaten for four days, and I keep praying but God isn’t answering. Maybe He’s testing my faith.”
Okay, well there’s its own book.
When my kids grow up, I hope they aren’t still expecting me to tell them what to eat for dinner, and yet I understand need. I’ve spent $400 on organic gluten free shopping sprees which included agar agar, bean flour, Himalyan sea salt, and organic beets. I’ve also stood in the line at DSHS, hoping to get my kids on state insurance. I don’t judge quite as much. But still need is disconcerting. My own mostly. Other people’s by an order of degrees. And guess what? The bottom feels rickety.
She extends her hand. “I am Sandy, she says.” Her pointer finger has a small open cut on it. I shake around that and make a note to wash with plenty of soap and warm water.
“Hi, Sandy. I’m Kaley. Sounds like you’re in a spot, huh?”
And here is need. Hungry and without teeth, asking for a blanket and a book. “I really like to read.” Though I don’t have a lot of extra resource right now, I have enough to help. Even without dipping into anything that would really impact me to give, I have plenty to give.
We go through my trunk and find a baseball cap, some Christmas-Book lifesavers, a pair of pants to go with the sweater. I say, “This Mango Tea is probably too heavy to carry?”
“You’d be surprised what you can carry.” In a cardboard fruit crate. Fine. This is a worthy cause.
Sandy steps onto my porch as I go inside. Prudent to leave her outside? Feel guilty for not inviting her in? For a bath. For a meal. I get plastic bags in various sizes (ad hoc suitcase, staying dry, bartering), some apples, some of those new individually-sized Jiffy peanut butter packs, cheese sticks, pretzles, crackers. (I’m thinking fats and proteins. It’s cold tonight.) Zach really likes the Rajneeshy colored checkered blanket, but he won’t notice it’s gone. Jane Eyre.
I meet Sandy back on the porch. We cram provisions into her house-in-a-box. She tells me her husband was her soulmate. They got pregnant their first night together and he looked at her and said, “I hope you’re pregnant.” Their ‘perfect son’ Sebastian is heading home from deployment in a week. Only son, so the Service is letting him out. “I’ve got some money saved up, Mom,” he told her. Just keep it together for a week. We’ll get her back,” Sebastian was referring to her grand-daughter and, I presume, his daughter. Sandy tears-up telling me about him and her soon-to-be rescue, and I am reminded that we are all just a breath away from being stripped as humans. Again: it feels rickety at the bottom.
“You know, I woke up under Burnside Bridge this morning and there was a Bible next to me. You might think I’m losing it, but I could feel my guardian angel standing there watching over me,” Sandy recounted. “And I could feel a tear. She said, ‘Don’t worry, Sandy. Today you will meet someone who will show you great kindness… I think it might be you,'” she tells me.
And I had been thinking the same thing. I am to be on the lookout for unusual situations that are gifts to teach me what I need to learn. I’m just not sure what I’ve learned yet. It was satisfying to be able to help someone with very simple things. It felt good to engage with real need and be able to help without getting lost in it — helping others adds to us, maybe… The comment about God testing her hit a nerve, and not sure what that’s all about. I’m still growing into the idea of taking responsibility for my reality, and I don’t like the passive victim of fate that was my story for so long. I don’t like the feeling of waiting for a rescue: it is disempowering. It will take me days to process this mirror more…
Sandy with no teeth because her grandparents made her brush her teeth with salt. Sandy who really misses her recently deceased husband and all the more because her first husband brainwashed her and locked her up for seven years. Sandy who is heading over to stay at a condemned motel on 78th and Hway 99 until her son gets back from overseas to help her out. “Some guy told me to take some of his rat bait if I was going to stay there, but rats are the least of my worries. I think they’re afraid of me.” Hmm. I hadn’t thought about rat bait in my preparation for the apocalypse. Makes sense.
“Sometimes it’s a good thing to have people be afraid of you,” I offered sagely. I’m imagining life on the streets for a woman.
“Bless you, Kaley,” said Sandy, and off she went.
“Bless you, Sandy.”