Life is complicated, isn’t it? Recently, I was working at the front desk at work, a co-working space in Seattle. An elderly lady was sitting in stillness for almost two hours in the sunlight, her veined hands endlessly turning a brochure over and over. A half hour before closing, I decided to check on her. Turns out she has dementia. She didn’t know who had dropped her off or who was picking her up. She just knew she was waiting for someone. I tried to figure out how I could help her. I didn’t want to kick her out but couldn’t just leave her there.
Eventually, we figured out that someone in a meeting upstairs had left her in the lobby. Just left her there. Didn’t say anything to us. Didn’t leave a note with her just in case. The woman didn’t even have ID save a bus pass with her name on it.
I imagine it’s hard to care for a parent with dementia. I know that this kind of thing often ends up in the hands of middle-aged women who are trying to make a living and have a career. Sometimes they are women with children they are still raising.
And yet here I was, working through what to DO because that’s also part of life. Borders need to be tended. Not without compassion but they do. I was comforted to know that this woman wasn’t one of the homeless women that walk through our doors seeking a place to sit and be. I was comforted to know that she had a bed to sleep in.
The situation still makes my heart ache though. What if the woman would have wandered outside? What if she was one of the many people in our city/world who don’t have a home, who don’t have a safety net underneath them? We say we need to open our borders to everyone but I work in a place that cannot house homeless people no matter how much we want to. No matter how kind we are, this isn’t possible. The world is messy and complicated. We need to honor that complexity. We need to speak out and we also need to listen. We need to care and to value care and we need to have some sort of system in place to manage care. If we see everything as either/or and engage in polemics, we are lost.
Let’s find our way.
Let’s find each other.
Let’s love each other.
Audre Lorde said, “It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.”
But how do we do that? How do we celebrate differences? At the Pride parade this year here in Seattle and made way through downtown on my bike. Stopping to watch the parade, I was so full of love for all the people I saw represented. All across the spectrums of age, gender and ethnicity, people were smiling and cheering. I talked to a police officer who was standing at a corner. I said, “Wow. You must be so warm in that uniform!” She said, “You have no idea.”
I thanked her for being there. I’ve marched in Pride twice with my child, the first time right after the Pulse shooting had happened. The police made me feel so safe all lined up to contain the fabulous. They were part of the love fest that is Pride just as much as anyone else. They tend the borders that contain the beauty and joy.
Love, like life, is filled with ambiguity, isn’t it? Holding various perspectives takes so much practice and an ocean of compassion. It requires a practice of inquiry and a release of assumptions. It requires patience but also a kind of gentle ferocity. We have to find our yeses and both our hard and soft noes. We have to both find our voice and our listening ears. We also have to take action. It’s easy to get paralyzed when things seem so out of control so we take the actions we can.
I gave blood recently. They told me that my one pint of blood could save 3 lives. I find that astonishing. I can save lives I will never know. I don’t know who will receive my blood and I don’t care. Their ideology is less important to me than their humanity. None of us can save every life and working through border issues, whether inside our hearts or on land is one of the humanitarian issues of our times.
I have faith in us. Let’s do this.