We have been experiencing some warm weather the last few days and the flowers are all blooming. The mountains look great. The sky is blue. And a full moon has greeted us at night. Today was in the upper 80s and we hung out around the pool with family for an Easter lunch. Jasper and Mazzy had a blast searching for eggs and then taking a swim in the pool. Of course, the sugar rush was a bit much.
Ironically, tonight is our last night at the Ojai Valley Family Shelter because it closes for the warmer season. Jasper and I have spent the past two seasons staying in a church kitchen with 15-20 homeless. Our night is Sunday and we usually arrive around 6:30pm, eat some dinner, put out the mats, and then serve breakfast around 6:00am.
One person, James, is in 5th grade in a local elementary school and Jasper has enjoyed playing with him. On our last visit Jasper realized that James doesn’t have a home to go to like him. That he doesn’t have a room with toys and his own bed. James’ mom has a few other children, but she only comes to the shelter with two of them. Most people are pretty regular and I have gotten to know names and experiences over the past two seasons. Some are in transition, others have mental health issues, many have day jobs but simply can’t afford to cover rent (much less first and last month). My hope was gain a better understanding of this community and generate more compassion in the world. They are good people with real stories. Bill, for example, sleeps with an oxygen machine and yet he continues to smoke. His friend/partner, Joyce, takes him to the hospital, cares for him, and wishes he’d quit smoking.
We are very fortunate, and that in itself, creates separation. How to remain real and to remain compassionate knowing that I have a home, a job, a savings account. There is so much poverty, so much suffering, so much injustice. It brings me back to the 5th Mindfulness Training where it says, “I am committed to living simply and sharing my time, energy and material resources with those in real need.” Are we doing this? What more can we do?
Joy, friendships, and love all exist, even here in the shelter.