Tag Archives: refuge

Databases

Setting my things down on the empty couch at a local coffeehouse to begin working, I overhear a conversation going on between the shop’s proprietor and another customer. The customer is sitting adjacent to me at a table with two duffle bags tucked neatly under his table and a spare pair of shoes tied to the ends of each of his bags.

Spirituality
Spirituality

A “homeless” man, whom Taoists would term a “noble” traveler, this customer is looking for a safe place to sleep before moving through and out of town tomorrow.

“I was going to stay at Happy Homes shelter tonight, before moving on tomorrow,” he explains. “But, after I gave them my name, they looked me up in some medical database and found out that I had been diagnosed as being bipolar years ago. They told me that I had to see a doctor before I could get in.

He continues, “I haven’t had problems with my bipolar disorder in years, so I stopped taking the medication. Isn’t that stupid?”

Hearing what this man is saying, I ponder the logistics of what the shelter has proposed. Here is a man with an insufficient amount of cash to be able to afford a motel for the night. He is moving through. Yet, the shelter wants him to be able to afford a doctor’s visit. Then, there is the issue of how long it actually takes to get in to see a physician in this area—somewhere between three to six months.

In addition to these logistical issues regarding seeing a physician, I consider the fact that the man is not being allowed to acknowledge his own healing or the apparent improvement in his mental health. The other, larger issue is that of an organization having access, not only to one’s criminal record, but to one’s personal medical records.

Because of the hour, there are three of us in the coffeehouse. To assist in the process of finding a safe place to sleep, I pull out my phone to help search for the addresses of nearby shelters. Due to my walking patterns, I know where most of the neighborhood shelters are located, but I do not have addresses memorized.

In a few minutes, we have the address of another walkable shelter for this gentleman to try. Bending over his things to organize the few belongings he carries, he prepares to walk the eight or ten blocks to the proposed place of safety for the night.

It is late in the afternoon. I hope he makes the shelter’s narrow in-take hours and passes their “entrance examination.”

I would that a prayer of mine could solve this man’s issues. Instead, as he reaches to push the door of the coffeehouse open onto a very blustery late October afternoon, I shout out a lame cliché, “Hey, good luck tonight.” He nods in my direction, in acknowledgement of my statement.

And, I think, “It is I who should be acknowledging you, dear Sir.”

Spirituality & Refuge

Spirituality

This spring , as the edges of my garden expanded into the alleyway, I purchased and planted a large bag of wildflower seeds for the pollinators coming through our neighborhood.  More than anything, I wanted to create a place of refuge—not only for myself in terms of the beauty of my natural yard—but also for my neighbors in the natural world.  In this narrow space, of perhaps a foot in width and twenty-five feet in length with intensively productive flowering plants, there have been a myriad of visitors: bees, butterflies, moths, cardinals and hummingbirds, among our many known flighted friends.  All summer long, they have been busy coming, going and otherwise retrieving what they need to live.

In contemplating the idea of refuge, I consider how we, as individuals, may choose to  offer refuge in the context of our human relationships—through the extension of kind speech, generous acts, our gifts or talents, as well as shared education in community—but, also, how we are capable of broadening the framework for the extension of refuge.

It seems that, in all of our busy, human and myopic doing,  we have forgotten that we are part of a broader world—the natural world.  We are not the only creatures on the planet, placed here to live and thrive.  We are not the only creatures on the planet seeking to live our lives in relative safety as we rear our young.  Thus, our concept of refuge needs to expand.  And, to that end, as co-inhabitants of the earth, changers of the planet’s landscape and configuration, we—as consumers—need to remember that our daily life-style choices have a tremendous impact on the ability of our fellow creatures to simply carry on with the business of their lives.

Is Your Pain So Great?

Sitting across from the banker, he chats easily with me while taking down some new contact information.  The subject of dogs comes up.

We talk about dog adoption as a major commitment.  Living with a dog is like having a perennially inquisitive child who is a lot of fun–an instant party really–and who is also capable of some serious mischief (read: potential object destruction).

“I had a friend who lost a dog recently,” the banker continues. “She’d had the dog for fifteen years and, after the dog’s passing, vowed she would never get another dog because the pain of losing the first was too great.”  The banker pauses here looking to me for a response.

I cannot think of anything appropriate to say, so I refrain from speaking.

“Is that your experience?”  he asks me more directly.  The subject of our recently losing a dog had come up.

Spirituality

“No…,” I work on collecting my thoughts.  “I think of relationships in terms of refuge.  Consider how many dogs one person is capable of granting refuge to in the context of one human lifetime.  Four?  Five?  Or more, if the person has the means, time and space.  Think about how many animals we could save from being euthanized.”

“Yes, I hadn’t thought of it that way,” he responds with new consideration.

With our business concluded, I move out of his office, through the building and into the sunshine, thinking to myself, “People is your attatchment to your pain so great that you could not consider giving a fellow creature in need a place of refuge?”  The walk home is long and sweet–though I would prefer to be sharing it with a four-legged friend.

*Notes on dog adoption.  Animal adoption is a major commitment.  On the plus side, dogs can grant us incredible companionship, devotion, loyalty and comfort with the added bonus of our having an “in-home personal trainer” in the form of a consistent walking companion.  On the serious-considerations side, dogs present a major time and training commitment, with expenses for appropriate care, food, kenneling, extra space requirements, as well as cleaning obligations.