Silent Chapel at the Mission Outpost, 6th and Market San Francisco. One of the last happening of our time in the City. Different posts to glide through individually in reflection. One “art is prayer”. I drew an eye in white pastel on black paper with blood seeping from it: I see your pain. The eye than morphed into a colorful burning bush of holiness, purification and light. I glanced at the other art. There were other eyes. It seems this has weighed upon us this week.
Across the street from the Mission outpost, a beautiful graffiti of a grey haired, tan faced man. There is something so beautifully captivating about his eyes. Peace within deep pain. And yet he seems to be comforting and wholesome. Wise yet pleading without being desperate. Strength and asking to be seen. Someone from the Mission outpost painted him for City Team, the organization we served last Saturday.
Holy Thursday. We rushed away from the Westmont Urban House to get back to 6th street in time for our meeting with the Organization Freedom House. It was a beautiful sunny day. I was as per usual listening to Trevor Hall on my phone smiling at the lively city. I look over in the bus observing the passengers when I see a man sitting down make a hand motion calling me towards him. I am a little confused at first. But he motions again. I take my headphone out and go to him. ” I want to listen to U2 on my phone” he says as he hands me his smartphone. I don’t do well with technology but was down to help. End up having a good conversation with him- Cesar. He tells me about his family, his children, his time in Canada his difficulties traveling, how his woman asks him when he will come back “soon soon” with a slightly hidden pained face, droopy eyes and lips and clenched jaw. He has not yet seen his 3 year old son. He kept putting his finger before his leps and shushing. Broad smile and almond eyes. Tan skin and red pupils. Who knows what he had endured. And yet he smiled. We knew. Different faces of the world that are not manifest here. “You see” he told me. Everyone else is locked up and closed off and they don’t look at people but you see he said. It was pleasant. To find a pillar of recognition. He exited the bus at City Hall and before getting off he came back towards me and gave me the SF clip he had on his bag, smiling and nodding. We know. Peace and Light. Shared and rekindled.
Later that night we had a debrief session. The students were distraught from the issue of Trafficking. Unlike all the other issues we’ve encountered that week: homelessness, abortion, drug addiction, juvenile delinquency…; trafficking is something that can’t be dealt with on the individual level. They didn’t feel there was anything THEY could personally do to help. It’s too big of an issue. That’s not true. And perhaps what you think you are doing for these other issues isn’t anything either. I don’t wish to take away from the goodness that comes from human interaction and service. But perhaps reevaluate and reorient why we do these things. We are serving and are we truly serving in not humbling ourselves before those we serve? So often we see service as something we are doing and we can do. Put your pennies where they matter. Makes sure every particle of your time and resources are applied so as to generate the greatest revenue and outcome. You think that you have done your bit by giving out food by cleaning an office for a couple hours. Those are valuable things. But those things by themselves are not changing the actual situation. You need to let yourself truly be in the situation. Sometimes you end up there without realizing and are amazed as to the human interaction that has happened. The services you perform are tools of engagement. They are open doors for you to float to a different plane. You enter it thinking you are a savior and sometimes are blown away by the wisdom acquired on this different plane you know nothing of. A different reflection. A different sight. What you can learn from the issue of trafficking is of utmost importance. And probably so uncomfortable because we don’t like feeling out of control. We like to think that our actions have huge impact. They do. Maybe not in the way you think. Maybe you don’t know how much impact your thoughts have. That changing their orientation changes everything. That you seeing that woman as a beautiful being that has been hurt and violated and smiles despite it instead of judging her clothes and assuming her morality does SO MUCH. And we need to SEE PEOPLE. How can you feel overwhelmed and not see the beauty and necessity of other sights when we are all so obsessed with HONY? How do you think he gets these amazing people to tell these amazing sometimes absolutely heart wrenching stories? He sees. He keeps his eyes opened. He listens to what is being said.
I’ve been overwhelmed this past year by friends giving me advice when I tell them of things I’ve been thinking and dealing with. I don’t need you to tell me what to do I need you to listen. This is uncomfortable right? I’m not totally sure why. Probably because we want problems to go away because we don’t want them to stick to us because we don’t want anything bringing us down and that’s what other peoples stuff does to us. We are soo afraid of intimacy. We are so afraid of sitting down with someone because all the things we are running from might catch up and we can’t have that. So we keep running and nothing and no one will catch us ever and we can just hand out socks on the way.
We left San Francisco. We stopped at an In N Out on the way down. I didn’t get anything, waited outside. A man was going through the trash. We got gas in Santa Barbara before going up to campus. Another man. Dirty hands and arms and clothes. White and grey hair in a fluff. Snot on his beard. Dirt on his face. Going through the trash at the gas station. He looked up. Beautiful Piercing Deep Blue Eyes.
How? I matched his face with other younger faces of people from school and wondered what his life was, who he was, what it takes for someone to arrive at that level of disconnect?
The first day in Sf at City team I interacted with a woman who suffered from most likely paranoid schizophrenia. Unlike most volunteers I could not say “It was great to interact with balbla because balbla”. I felt like crap. I was hurting. Mostly because I realized that in my struggles to maintain stability I am thankful that I’m not crazy. And then I see these people. Who live their lives this way and it pains me that I do not want to resemble them. That I fear such a life they have to live. That we have an image of what it is to be human and to be insane or to be dirty on the streets does not fit into that. They are still human. They have a story.
Take that with you. That everyone you pass down the street has a story. That there is Light in them. That They are Sacred.
I was so blessed this past week. I’ve been so blessed this semester, this past year, this life.
Full of gratitude, full of love, refreshed by this break in many ways. Still drawing from that filled up well of fresh water. My many experiences and thoughts and emotions. Grateful for these. For my family, for my friends, for the amazing mentors I have encountered along the way who have been willing to bless me. So much more to reflect upon, so much more to come. Very excited for it all and reveling in the wonder of this sweet peace that follows me and that I see grow and experience in new ways each day.
A very happy girl. Eyes wide open.