Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Tuesday: the homeless and the harpist

Every day, for my current casting job, I read or hear stories of people on the verge — the verge of losing a home, losing a job, fear of losing their friends and family if they become homeless or have to move out of state for work. Though I'm collecting these stories for a good cause, so families might receive expert advice and become part of an online community in which strangers become neighbors and take up the social responsibility of caring for each other, it still wears on my soul.

So this morning, walking up to begin another day of disseminating distressing stories, I stopped to make sure a woman curled on the sidewalk was okay. A man was leaning over her, and as I approached he assured me the other man, sitting in his car at the curb, had called the paramedics. She was perched on that ledge, he told me, and then just fell over. The woman, dressed in dirty, street-stained clothes, was homeless and off her meds, though had obviously just been self-medicating with something. The man who had called 9-1-1 pulled away, and my new friend and I stood near the woman, reassuring her that the paramedics were on their way. She cradled herself, mumbling jibberish and crying, and I felt tears well up in my eyes.

It pushed me over my emotional edge. Too much — too much suffering, helplessness, self-medicating. But what also made me want to sob was seeing two strangers stop their day to help a woman who had likely done this to herself. I heard no words of judgment, just sympathy.

After another day of stories of foreclosure and loss of health insurance, I heard the sound of a harpist. Had I been in a terrible train accident? Was this heaven? It was Hollywood & Highland, and exiting the Metro, I heard Philip King playing to a small crowd waiting for the red line.

The moment of music and the harpist's gorgeous smile reminded me of the small beautiful things in life and, feeling a little more connected to them, I walked down to Sunset where I boarded my bus with a man with no hands, who carted about an old computer tower between his two stubs just above where his wrists should have been. His dirty dreadlocks covered his face as he bent forward to eat out of a take-out container of food he'd just scavenged from a fast-food joint near the bus stop. He, too, was off necessary meds, and muttered the whole drive west, as other passengers ignored him, looked away from his dirty arms that ended abruptly, exited the bus as if he wasn't there.

The last two passengers heading west, we rode the bus the rest of the way as he muttered unintelligible streams of consciousness and I read Richard Rohr's words about being fully present, how the kingdom of God is not the fuzzy future where harps are played by angels with long, beautiful dark hair, but a state of consciousness of being in the NOW. Looking at the empty bus and the homeless, crazy man, I wondered if he were a veteran, and if this was really the kingdom of God.

"The kingdom of God is the naked now — the world without human kingdoms, ethnic communities, national boundaries, or social identifications. That is about as subversive and universalist as you can get. But don't think about that too much; it will surely change your politics and your pocketbook."

Rohr continues to write about prayer as "resonance." "All you can really do in the spiritual life is get tuned to receive the always present message. ... Prayer is not an attempt to change God's mind about us or about events. ... It is primarily about changing our mind so that things like infinity, mystery and forgiveness can resound within us." (Richard Rohr, The Naked Now - Learning to See as the Mystics See)


1 comment:

Katie Bond said...

well written, beautifully said. loved your ending thoughts on prayer... agree