Limitations live only in our minds. But if we use our imaginations, our possibilities become limitless. Jamie PaolinettiShe sat patiently on the seat of her walker. Waiting. I drove up to the curb by the front doors of the shelter and she stood up and slowly walked towards me. "I was just about to call a cab," she said, panic rising in her voice. "I didn't know where you were."
I smiled as I helped maneuver her walker and her numerous bags into the back of my car. "I'm glad I got here in time then," I replied.
I wasn't late. She had forgotten our conversation on Saturday when we'd set the time for me to pick her up. She was too excited. Anxious. She was about to participate in Two Bit Oper eh? Shun and her mind wasn't really focused on details.
I got her to the theatre where she will spend the next five days working on Power Play: Homelessness, participatory Forum theatre facilitated by David Diamond of Headlines Theatre.
As she walked through the doors of the theatre, wheeling her walker before her, she was like a play unfolding all on its own. She has a locker at the shelter. A place to store her things. Not big, packed full, like a thousand other lockers in the building, it overflows with clothes and trinkets and personal belongings. Entire lives held in the confines of a metal locker.
On her walker, her life precedes her. A bag dangles from each handle. The seat is packed with a backpack and another bag. A metal pannier sits on the front, loaded with another bag and a jacket. "I never know what I'm going to need during the day," she says. "And staff don't have a lot of time to take people up to their lockers so I gotta plan for every eventuality."
Plan for every eventuality.
In homelessness, an eventuality is seldom what you expect. They arrive unplanned. Unanticipated. A fall. A sudden turn can all lead somewhere unexpected. The hospital. Jail. A theatre lobby.
She had wanted to take part in Power Play: Homelessness. She had sent in her application but missed the message telling her when she needed to turn up for her interview. It's the thing about homelessness. In a busy shelter, sometimes, messages go missing. Lost. Taken down before read from the bulletin board. The message bearer forgetting to pass on the message.
For her, that missed message lead to a missed appointment.
"What am I going to do about the play next week?" she'd asked me Saturday night as we prepared for the opening of Two Bit Oper Eh? Shun.
The rehearsals started the next morning. My mind raced with ideas on how to make it happen for her. "You're going to sit right here and wait for me to come back with the coordinator," I said. "She's just out in the lobby getting things ready."
I raced off and grabbed the coordinator. She agreed to do the interview right then and there. Arrangements were made and my friend with the walker is now in the play.
As we drove she whispered shyly. "You know, I made enough from Two Bit. I could afford to take a cab."
"You don't want to spend your hard earned money on a cab," I replied. "This is easy."
Her mobility is limited because of a dislocated hip. She doesn't heal well. Diabetes doesn't help. And, living in a shelter, her diet doesn't always present opportunities for wellness.
For Sarah*, it doesn't matter. She is filled with possibilities.
"Do you think I could work with you on a newsletter?" she asks. "Something just for the clients. We could include tips on how to survive life in a shelter. Maybe even recipes." She pauses. I wonder about the recipes idea. Her enthusiasm sweeps me up in the possibilities. "You'd have to help me. I don't write very well. But I'd sure work hard at making it work."
I've promised to give her a notebook to write down ideas. "How about journaling this week. Ask the other participants to write down their thoughts too. And then we can create a story out of your journey through Power Play."
She turns her face towards me. High forehead banded by a blue bandanna. She beams. A smile bright and excited. "That would be really nice. I'd like to do that."
I've got a notebook I can take this morning. She's filled with possibilities. All I need to do is give her the space to write them in.
We created the video below for my presentation on Sunday, January 24 at a public forum, ART MATTERS. I'm pretty excited about the possibilities of what can happen when we give voice to the power of art and the creative process to awaken spirit. At the Forum, their Excellencies the Right Honourable Michaelle Jean, Governor General of Canada, and Mr. Jean-Daniel Lafond, will be in attendance to participate in the investigation of 'the power and purpose of using the arts to address social justice.'
To read more about the Possibilities Project, click here.