How do they do it, day after day?

As some of you know, I made a decision last spring to give up my apartment and begin house/kitty sitting to minimize my expenses while I grow my speaking/writing/acting career. My career was growing(I’m a paid actor after all!)…just not fast enough to cover all my expenses, including the debt from my business school experience. My part-time job was helping, but still not enough. And darn it, if I’m going to be working pretty much until the day I pass (Ex-nun, left-over hippies often didn’t think of planning for retirement!) it’s going to be doing what I feel called to do, what makes me feel most alive!

Street Sense Health Forum Volunteer Committee

Street Sense Health Forum Volunteer Committee

At the time of my decision, I did not realize that I was choosing to be, in effect, “homeless” for a while. I’m a volunteer for Street Sense, the street  newspaper, written and sold by folks who are trying to pull themselves out of homelessness through entrepreneurship. I’ve read and heard some of their stories, and I realize that my experience of homelessness is the very “cushiest” version.  I do have a permanent address, as housemate with a friend from my previous building, though I live “out” at my house sitting assignments. And I was blessed to keep my storage units in the building, which allowed me to keep certain items I hope to use again, as well as my props for the Bessie performances, and the stock of my children’s book.

But I have packed up my bags and moved nearly a dozen times during these past six months. And a week ago, I realized that I did not know where I was going to live after this last gig, ending on October 18. I began to feel some anxiety as I posted all my notices about my house/kitty sitting service.  Suddenly it hit me…this is a pretty stressful way to live!

Each time I have to pick up my stuff and move on, I experience a sort of disorientation, a disruption in the flow of my life. It shows up in the every day things. It’s harder to begin my work again. Did I remember to pay that parking ticket? Where is my mail folder of papers I need to attend to? Where did I put that bath soap? Did I remember to take my jacket out of storage?

Then I began to think about those brave folks I meet at Street Sense. They, and the rest of our homeless population, (close to 7,000 in DC alone) face this disorientation every day, along with such basic concerns as where will I eat, where will I shower and use the bathroom? How can I get cleaned up for work? How will I feed my kids? What do I do if I get sick?

If my relatively safe and easy “homelessness” can be a source of stress for me, how much more so is it for them? What does it take just to wake up and face another day?  How in the world do they do it? And what would happen if everyone who is blessed with the basics of food, clothing and shelter decided that they had to do something about this?

I know it can be disconcerting to be approached on the street by someone asking for money. And it’s very easy to lump everyone together, and dismiss them with the thought, “How do I know they’re not just going to go buy drugs or booze?” Or to think “this problem is so big; what in the world can I do?”

But now that I’ve experienced just this tiny glimpse of how being homeless disrupts the very foundation of what’s needed to live productive, happy lives, I feel the need to encourage those of us who are blessed with the basics to ask, What can I do?

Here are two suggestions: 1) What ever is your version of prayer or affirmation, take a moment to acknowledge that we are all children of the Universe, and hold a thought of blessing for our homeless brothers and sisters. 2) Look for the Street Sense Vendors in your neighborhood and buy the paper when it comes out every two weeks. You’ll read stories you won’t find anywhere else, including first hand accounts of life on the street, both in prose and poetry. And you’ll be helping to support the vendors, who are a part of the Street Sense community and follow a code of ethics in their dealings. You will be glad you did!

Meanwhile, I’m going to try to get a little better organized so it’s a bit easier to pack up and get ready for my next move!

Much love and many blessings,

TerrySig2

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The Wrong Way to Make a Right Turn on Red

Greetings, dear ones!

I’ve been talking a lot about pausing and being in the present moment in these messages, usually based on some internal experience I’ve had, and always related in some way to speaking out our truth. The story of this pause is a little different. It’s a potentially life-saving pause for any of us who are moving between one and two tons of metal around our communities at varying speeds, that is, driving. Here’s what happened.

One night last week, I was driving home in the torrential rain, exhausted and longing for my warm bed. I was about to make a right turn on red from 2nd Street onto Independence Ave.

I was looking to the left, to see if any car was coming, and as I was looking to the left, my car was moving – slowly, but moving – to the right. Notice I said, “my car was moving.” Not “I was driving my car to the right without looking.”

Seeing that no one was coming from the left, I started to pick up speed to complete the turn. As I turned my head to the right, in a split second, I saw..what the…?! Not even a whole person…just a torso with a back pack, soaking wet, banging the hood of my car with their (his/her?) hands as I jammed on the brakes.

My heart and breath stopped short with my car. I watched my near-victim continue to cross Independence, and then, my mind tormented by possibilities, I started to breathe again as I continued to drive home.

I could have killed, or at least badly injured that person. I need to make sure that possibility never happens again.

So that’s where the pause comes in. I’ve been paying attention, and I noticed that when I’m making a right turn on red, it is automatic for me to roll forward at an angle as I scope out whether cars are coming from the left. Otherwise, I can’t always see around the parked cars. But I’m looking to the left as I roll forward, so I don’t see what’s happening to my right…where the car is going. It’s scary and dangerous, and I’ve been doing it for years!

Now I’m committed to pausing before I make a right turn on red, and paying attention to both left and right as I move forward. It sounds so “duh,” but it’s hard!

Why am I telling you this? Because I suspect I’m not the only one who is unaware of creating this danger. Here’s what the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, (“a U.S. non-profit organization funded by auto insurers…to reduce the number of motor vehicle crashes.” WikipediA.) has to say: “Studies conducted after states first adopted right-turn-on-red laws found that allowing right turns on red increased pedestrian and bicyclist collisions at intersections by 43-123 percent…and 93 percent of these crashes resulted in injuries to the pedestrians and bicyclists. Click here for links to the studies.

My invitation to you: take a moment the next time you’re making a right turn on red, (or turning on the radio, or answering a phone call!) to pause and be sure that you are paying attention to the whole scene around you. It’s the Pause that could save a life.

Much love and many blessings,
TerrySig2