Sunday, December 21, 2008

Wisdom from a street retreat

I took pages of notes yesterday, and promised earlier that I’d post them. It doesn’t seem important right now, to share specific stories. Right now, I don’t care how the man handing out juice at St. Anthony’s soup kitchen looked at me, for instance. Describing exactly how the neighborhood “park” looked and felt like a jail, would only cloud my point.

What I need to do, is to say succinctly what I wrote in the direction of this morning. I need to articulate the lesson I took away from the experience, which none but God sought to teach me.

I purposely didn’t bring money with me, other than a BART pass. I wanted to know how it would feel to be in the city without it, and to be able to look people in the eye and say, “I haven’t got it,” when they asked. (As part of the Night Ministry, I’m not allowed to give money out even if I were inclined to. And I’m tired of lying.) I carried essentials like water, paper and pen, the neighborhood map they gave us. In my jeans pockets, I carried a handful of cough drops—which I ended up giving away—and an acorn from the Ranch.

The acorn was a purposeful addition; I wanted a touchstone. I wanted to be able to ground myself, if at any point I needed to connect (with nature, or deep breathing, or whatever). I never used it.

But I realized, not even until this morning when I was writing: I have been as afraid as I am ever going to be—and it was not in the Tenderloin. My fear of cancer, and my walking through that fear, gave me the freedom to go anywhere. I can be with people, and in places, in ways that I never could have—not because I was too naïve or frightful, but because I didn’t have the experience that has grounded me. I’m not going to do anything stupid, just to challenge my fear. I don’t need to. I’m already safe, everywhere I go.

I realized, I can carry whatever I want to—or walk with empty pockets. Acorns, cough drops, coins from the street, it doesn’t matter. What I bring with me, what I pick up and turn over and share, are rocks from the ground of God.

I was never told, like Margaret, that I would die. I was told that I could. I didn’t, and I’m making myself sick for a year to fight the chance of a much more dangerous recurrence. She told me to go barefoot at the Ranch, as much as I could, when it was warmer. She was right to remind me. But now I understand her real point. I have lived in the face of fear of dying. I have been to some very dark places. I found there healing, grace, fearlessness, and love. I threw my body into this, and I let the learning transform me. I have walked, and I walk now, on holy ground.

May it always be so.


it's margaret said...

oh wow girl.... but you forgot the laughing part, you know, barefoot and laughing!!!

I like the acorn. Better than a rosary. You know, like Julian of Norwich, the hazelnut.... good ol' fashioned thingyness --so incarnational m'dear.


Oh! word verification is "presses"
I guess that is like a virtual hug or something!

Kirstin said...

Nah, I didn't forget it--I just didn't write it. I've been glowing all day. :-)

(((Hugs back!)))

Lauralew said...

"I'm already safe, everywhere I go." That is so profound and so utterly true. You've internalized wisdom that many never do, who exist in fear and never really live.

Caminante said...

Traveller, there is no way...

you are finding it as you walk on holy ground with bare feet and laughing.

I have just embarked on the pilgrimage of accompaniment of a woman in my new parish who learned ten days ago she has lung cancer that has metastised to her lymph nodes; chemo started on Friday.

Your wisdom shall accompany me as I try to walk with her.

Keep walking.

Kirstin said...

Laura, I'm so much more alive since this--I'd never give it back.

Caminante, I will keep walking. And I will walk with you. Prayers.

Jane R said...

What I bring with me, what I pick up and turn over and share, are rocks from the ground of God.

:-) Thank you.

Kirstin said...

:-) You're welcome.

(And I'm glad you're not on a total blog-break!)

Paul said...

С рождеством!

(I know it's about 23.5 hours early, but I will forget and I wanted to send you a Christmas wish.)

I don't know how I still have my socks on after reading what you write these days.

((((((( KP )))))))