vulnerability teaches me a life lesson…

“you’ll be 33 in three years time whether you do it or not”…my mother’s famous words to me in 2001…

talk about turning your life around…I hear all the time – if only I had finished that when I was younger, if only I had went for it a few years ago, it’s too late now, I’m too old…my advice – “next year will come whether you do it or not”…and you know what, next year is here now and there’s another one around the corner…

had my mother simply let me fade into a life I had settled for, I wouldn’t be the person I am today…my parents are my biggest advocates…they instilled in me a sense of want, a sense of hope and a sense of meaning…I learned late in life that I want to mean something to people, I want to evoke change, I want to be the advocate for those that are not fortunate enough to have their own…

vulnerability is a foreign concept in my personal life, up until recently, when I took this delightful plunge into the world of writing, sharing, rambling and hitting publish…but funny enough I stare vulnerability in the face on a daily basis…I eat, breath and sleep my work…I try to leave it at the office, but I often can’t…as I close my files, turn off my computer, ignore the phone message flashing, and drive home, I stare vulnerability in the face…see it’s on every corner, you just don’t see it…see it’s in our neighborhoods, you just don’t see it…why am I so comfortable eating, breathing and sleeping with other’s vulnerability and not my own…

that’s the money question…

you could say, and people will be angry, but my work is what defines me…I thrive on instilling a sense of hope; thrive on enabling independence, on attainment of that passion that ignites a person’s facial muscles required to smile…we talk about the weather – oh my it’s hot, it’s even hotter on the 4th floor of my house…we talk about trips – god I really need a vacation, I haven’t been anywhere since the spring…we talk about material things – found this in my closet last night, bought it when I was in new york totally forgot about it…we talk about gluttony and greed and we want more…hell I always want more…

it hits me sometimes though, as I drive home and see the same gentleman sitting on a porch step, not his porch step because he doesn’t have one, but a porch step, smoking a rolled up, half cracked cigarette – rolled with tobacco that he gathered from a store’s garbage bin, tobacco from snuffed out cigarettes of strangers…but he sits, smiles, inhales, holds onto the nicotine for a split second in his lungs and exhales…the puff is short lived cause the cigarette is small, the inhale is long as he savors the taste, the release, the end of the puff and exhale…

i know this cause I know him…a face I see daily, a face filled with fear and anxiety…a mind filled with terrible stories, real and made up – which is which, I have no idea…a body disheveled and filled with toxins…a life filled with hardship and pain…but he sits, smokes and smiles…people pass him, step a wider step around him and snub him if he asks in his husky voice “got any spare change”…he knows you hear him, he knows you are ignoring him, but he needs to ask – he survives on butts from strangers cigarettes he gets from garbage bins…

walking the streets of downtown is funny…I know some shady characters…like shady mcshady…when a friend was walking with me one day, a man simply said, “hey Danielle”, my friend looked at me as if to say “wtf”…I laughed…those of us that work with at risk, vulnerable populations, you know what I’m talking about…the stories I have in my head, the files I read, the histories I am aware of you have all been witness to – but in movies and in television shows…I see them in person, I hold their hands, I see their homes, I meet their families, their children, their roommates – I stare at the hardship, what I call hardship daily – and my heart bleeds for those that didn’t have a chance like I had a chance…

why me and not them…

with all my thoughts of sadness and disbelief for a life some people lead, comes a realization that happiness does not come in the form of a house, a paycheck or a car…rather it comes from a feeling of self worth and belonging…being afraid, not making eye contact, pretending we don’t see those at our feet as we walk the streets or these days as we wait at a red light – will not make them go away…by doing these things, we are adding to the already spirit breaking world we live in…can we give every person money that asks us, no…but what we can do, is smile, make eye contact and don’t make others feel invisible…you can be in a crowded room and yet be the loneliest person there…smiles are free, smiles are engaging and smiles are contagious…turning one’s life around takes encouragement, takes advocacy, takes a feeling of being wanted, needed and trusted…one person alone can not evoke change, it takes a community…it takes a community of believers…

finding what is meaningful and purposeful to me took me a while – and I had all my ducks in alignment…imagine trying to find what is meaningful and purposeful to you in a world that beats you down, in a world that you’re ignored…it’s a scary thought isn’t it…

what will you be doing next year…it’ll come whether you try something new or not…open your eyes and see…listen with your ears and hear…we’re more powerful alert than not…

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4 thoughts on “vulnerability teaches me a life lesson…

  1. God Danielle, I love this. The Humans of New York page posted a pic of a gentleman..well, I will just attach. This never ever would have occurred to me. But it does now.

    Like

    • if this posts a couple times, I apologize.

      I often go around with my head down. Or, if it’s up, I sometimes don’t see the world around me. Most times it’s because something is on my mind. But I can also be a bit shy about eye contact with people I don’t know. It makes me uncomfortable when I am out and about for some reason but I am understanding that is so silly and I am losing wonderful experiences. So, I’ve been working on it. Yesterday it came very naturally and the difference for me was amazing. I think I near the shocked the pants off a well tanned (some dirt baked in) 50’sish “gentleman” with a paper bag in hand (suspiciously looking like it was holding a ‘beverage’) when I politely, with a smile, asked him what he had said to me (I couldn’t hear him due to the wind). He stopped dead in his tracks, his devilish smile turned to a gentle one, and he said “I was just warning you…one gust of wind and you’ll lose your skirt”. I laughed and said “no worries, I got ‘er” and trotted off. I knew he was amazed I was nice to him. He seemed happy about it. All was good. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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