*Today’s piece is from Erika Morrison. She writes over at The Life Artist. She has a killer space. You should check it out after you read here. Thanks, Erika!
Sometimes gratitude beckons gentle like a soft breeze slipping along your cheek-skin. And sometimes she calls fierce and punctures straight through all your hardened places to reach your most-middle . . .
A fall family walk on a Sunday in November with the autumn air, the just-perfect silk-blue sky, ten million more dancing leaves and we are high on health and beauty and the Love that fills the space between us. But always when you are high, someone else in this world (or in your neighborhood) is low and our treading feet walked down the hill to the scene of a domestic dispute, publicly displayed. They were yelling in Spanish and I have wished time and again since living in this multi-cultural sequester of New Haven that I had the empty hours and energy to learn this language and right now is no exception. Beyond tone and emotion I don’t know what is being said, but before our startled vision this woman pushes hard and peels herself away from a raging man and takes flight down the sidewalk. Immediately I am even more aware in all my senses and I reach out to her with the Spirit inside me and I know instantly, this: the foreign words they speak may be lost on me, but I can smell fear and desperation and she wears hers like too much cheap perfume.
Our five flesh-hearts witness her. Two blocks from the incident she crumples to the concrete with body-shaking sobs, agony spilling from her skin. Quickening my pace with an “oh dear God” and I stop to fold my legs to level my eyes with hers. I meet her there, where she is, treading in a whirlpool of grief and I could feel it like she sucked me into her story and it hurt. Jesus, it hurt.
“Are you okay?” is the questions that falls off my tongue and–of course–I know the answer. She can hardly speak through her waking-grave and my arms, of their own volition, wrap full around her bony, malnourished frame. The tip of my nose brushes right up to her stringy, smoke-stenched hair and I will the Love in my body to seep into her molecules because it’s all I have and somewhere in my subconscious I have to believe and hope it makes a difference, otherwise? I’m not sure I can bear the ache.
She turns her neck from one side to the other in response to the question and through her watery-hiccups I catch her broken english, “I’m . . . (hic) so tired of . . . (hic) them beating . . . (hic) on me.” I hear her like it is Jesus talking to me and I even see His face in her overused and forgotten features, in the tears free-leaking in rivulets down leather-skin lines. It’s like He’s staring at me through this woman who has been around every damn block – He’s gone with her and he needs my kindness to ease the tear in His heart just as much as she does.
“Do you want to come home with me? Have a meal and be safe for awhile?” Is my next asking. I wanted to pull her into my body and hold her as long as it took for her to believe she was loved. And she lifted her downcast head and stared through the unbelief with a sort of feral hope that I was for real, “I . . . (hic) go home . . . (hic) with you? Yes. Please!” It was the “please” that got me, an utterance that came forth with such pleading – as if her whole life hung by one quarter’s worth of compassion. I took her hand and helped her to unsettled feet and me, my man and little-men surrounded her and started for home, exchanging names and “hello’s”.
But, it all happened so fast . . . the car screeching up to the curb next to us, the man jumping out and speaking frantically and pulling Yvonne from my arm draped across her shoulders. The woman driving the car opens her door, turns her body to look back at us and very pointedly says,”You don’t know anything about this situation. She doesn’t need your help.” And I am screaming inside and Yvonne is gripping my hand and drags me close enough to beg-whisper through a fresh flood of tears, “Where do you live? I come to you?” Giving her hand a final squeeze, I lean in to tell her my address and then she was gone before any of us knew what was happening or what we could be done differently.
“What just happened here?” We are stunned and our feet are slow to leave the spot where Yvonne left us and my oldest son, Gabriel, is suffering too from this experience and says, “Mama, what are we going to do?” I look into his worried-innocence and I tell them straight and true, “We’re going to pray . . . and boys? Boys, we’re going to give thanks for everything we can imagine . . . for sleeping in safety, comfort and warmth, for love and laughter and hugs and living in the lap of luxury and for being born in the family we are, for being able to notice beauty because we don’t live day after day in ugly and dark. What else are we thankful for?” I ask this last question in my own desperation because it feels to me like raping the already abusive circumstances present in our world if I don’t unbutton my lips again and again and again with full and free thanksgiving for every atom of goodness I can think of.