“How many of us keep writing ourselves out of our own story, and kicking ourselves out of our own need for home…
Invite yourself in. You matter.”
Temperatures have hovered around and below freezing for days in a row in a place where the thermometer usually ranges between 40 and 80 degrees fahrenheit. The bay cradles the land, keeping us both warm and cool. But sometimes the unusual happens.
I layered silk long johns under my jeans before hopping on my bike.
The bustle of the kitchen had slowed down by the time I arrived. Everyone who had someplace to go, had gone. Those that remained had nothing. No tent under an overpass, no tiny room in an SRO, no couch, no bed, no money to camp out on the train or in a warm cafe. They huddled under coats and donated military blankets. Several gathered in the one tiny patch of sunlight near the women’s bathroom. The patch was shrinking.
Come closing time, I noticed that none of the volunteers were saying our usual chipper, “We’re closing folks, thanks for coming!” A few people lingered as long as possible, slowly gathering belongings and putting on layers. I bent my head back toward the table I was scrubbing down and paused. A wave of sadness washed through me. One moment of despair. There was nothing I could do for these people. Nothing except turn them back out into the cold. “This isn’t a personal failure,” I said to myself, though it felt like it. “This isn’t a failure of the kitchen. It is a failure of our culture.” And in the 10 billion year scheme of things, it likely is no failure at all.
The six members of the Walton family have one hundred fifty billion dollars. Six members of our local bay community have died from exposure in the last two weeks.
I tell this story because it is important. I tell this story also because it connects to you. To my students. Clients. Friends.
Too many of us are always putting other’s needs ahead of our own, while other’s aren’t doing that nearly enough. In either direction lies injustice.
The quote I began this piece with was something I wrote to a student last week. I posted it on Facebook and Twitter yesterday, and sure enough, some people responded. Still later, a session with a spiritual direction client also steered in this direction. I wrote about this Thanksgiving week, but the aura of it remains, so here we go again:
Too many of us are in pain. Too many of us are locking the parts that are in pain – or the parts that are pissed off, grieving, fearful – out in the cold. Too many of us are forgetting that we ourselves need kindness. That parts of our soul need a cup of soup and a smile.
The Five of Pentacles shows two destitute people, one likely a leper, one with bare feet. They trudge through the snow, past a brightly lit window. What parts of you feel like this? Outcast. Hurting. Shivering. Not allowed in.
We don’t have to live in the Five of Pentacles, always shut away from bright lights and warmth. I invite you to find the parts of self that feel cold and lonely and welcome them into your arms. I invite you to offer them something warm and comforting to drink.
Even for the space of three long breaths, find a way to offer yourself kindness.
I invite you to find one small way to also do this for one other.
Even members of the Walton family likely need a welcome in from the cold.
Sometimes one act of kindness can change somebody’s world.