Tell me and I'll forget. Show me and I may not remember. Involve me, and I'll understand. American Indian ProverbI am an experiential learner. Sometimes, my learning is done in one act, one moment, one event. Sometimes, it takes me awhile to figure out -- what the heck I'm supposed to be learning.
No matter the speed of my learning, however, when I view every event, every circumstance not as a travail to be endured but rather as a gift to be unwrapped, my life radiates with joy and gratitude. My heart beats effortlessly and my body moves with grace into that state of being One with the world around me.
It is The Way.
It has taken me many years to find this place where I know, when I resist circumstances, people, events, happenings, I am creating friction in my life. When I embrace all, I am creating the way to joy and happiness, peace of mind and tranquility.
The Way is not just in the path to be trodden. It is found in the How of the path. How I take the voyage, pick up the mantle, take up the challenge, embrace the situation, become the journey.
I can't always choose the path, I can always choose how I travel it.
Yesterday, I received some beautiful encouragement from fellow bloggers on my post about my encounter with the man in the lobby of the shelter where I work. Each person who responded created a marker on my journey. A marker that helped me embrace the truth and beauty of that encounter. A marker that illuminated my path and embraced me with love and light.
In that embrace I was able to let go of the sadness and anger I felt at what I perceived to be my helplessness in that event, to move into the 'learning' of the ripple effect of the stories I tell when I write about working at the shelter and the people I meet.
And I am blessed.
I work in a place where our human condition is on display in all its depth and gory details every day. These are not all happy stories, not all happy people. Yet, no matter the condition of their 'story' they are all on the path, the same path as you and me, travelling at difference speeds, travelling in different directions -- but always on the human path, searching for The Way to find what we want most in life -- whatever we determine that to be.
Sometimes, what people are searching for does not align well with my world view. I don't agree with abusing alcohol or numbing myself out with drugs. I don't agree with lying and stealing, cheating and conniving to get whatever I want.
Whether or not I agree with what those we serve at the shelter are doing, they are fellow human beings. How we treat them is a reflection of who we are. And our manadate, our mission, our belief is that we must treat them with dignity and respect. That we honour their human being until they can, or are ready, to see that The Way they're going is hurting them. That there is another way to get what they want. That there is an alternative to what they're doing.
Or not. We can't change someone's path. We can involve them in searching for another way.
It is the challenge of working in a shelter. There are so many people on a daily suicide mission with life who cannot awaken to the beauty of their human condition because the condition of their life is so dark and painful, they see no other way to lighten their load than to immerse themselves in the darkness of their addiction.
Or, their mental health is so compromised they cannot find their way without guidance -- and we do not have the capacity to provide them the depth of care they need. All we can do is whatever it takes to keep them safe, to keep them from harm as best we can.
And in that doing, we become The Way for them to continue taking another step and another one until such time as governments, mental health workers, whomever has the power and capacity to change the circumstances under which they live awaken to the truth -- their homelessness is an outcome measurement of the things we've done as a society. Their homelessness is a measurement of how well, or poorly, we've done taking care of people in our communities who cannot take good care of themselves.
On this path of the human condition, there are countless people who have fallen down, countless people who are stepping over them, and countless others who stop to reach out, lend a hand and give back. People who every day take care and make a difference.
I am grateful for all those who read my stories are touched by the power of these lives to illuminate the way to creating kinder more caring communities.
I am grateful for those who read and see the beauty of humanity even in its darkness. And those who read and see only the darkness.
I am grateful for the people I work with who care so much and so deeply for those we serve. They are the true heroes of my world. They stand on the front lines and push against the darkness, letting the light illuminate this place called homelessness so that even those lost in the darkest corners can find their way home again. Without these heroes our human condition would be lost on the streets, fallen over, beaten down, stepped over, ignored by those of us who cannot see the way to creating a better world is to take care of each other, no matter our condition, so that we may all come back to the homes where we belong.
I am grateful this morning. In the snowy darkness of this November morning, I am blessed. In the quiet of my home, I am surrounded by hearts beating in time with mine. In the quiet of the morning, as I write, I am comforted by the realization that there are those who will stop by my blog to read and become involved in the stories I tell. Sometimes they'll comment and always they encourage me and challenge me to see The Way to my heart is always through Love.