DJ gives us a prayer

DJ is a young, bearded, scruffy, dirty-clothed homeless guy who comes by the front of Battery Park Apartments several times a day and – when he is not talking to us – is usually walking the streets talking to himself, or to somebody that the rest of us can’t see.  I don’t think any of us knows where he stays at night.

building front
The uber-historic Battery Park Apartments.  As you are looking at it here, Diana and her various posse’s hang out just to the right of the stairs, behind that white car.

DJ’s primary contact at Battery Park Apartments is naturally Diana, who is out in front of the building smoking most of the day.  But she is also his natural point of contact because she knows DJ’s world: she herself has been homeless – almost certainly more than anyone else in the building and probably more than all 105 of us put together.  Years after getting housed, she had a full-time job managing a women’s homeless shelter for the Salvation Army.  She both understands where DJ is coming from and is much less caught in the stereotypes, generalizations and negative judgments that poison the rest of us.

Diana – whose natural/instinctive/ values-based generosity is really central to who she is – is trying to balance that huge open heart with her new practice of solid boundaries.  I’ve told her of Brene Brown’s research where the social science researcher found that the personal quality that most relates to happiness is open heartedness – and the personal quality that most relates to open heartedness is solid boundaries.  As Diana and I share stories from our day, “boundaries” is one of the lenses we apply to those stories.  She might say to me: “That’s a place where you needed a solid boundary” or “You were holding your boundary”.

The rest of us, who do not know DJ’s world – and may not even have had much real interchange with homeless people over the course of our lives (hosting Room In the Inn at Jubilee has been a real game-changer for some Jubilants, but I have volunteered just twice for this project where homeless women spend the night in the first floor at Jubilee – Patton Ave. side).  We may only have ever “talked” to a homeless person to help ourselves feel less guilty over the fact that we have so many judgments about them.

DJ is kinda sweet and very polite – and probably mentally ill, another world that Diana knows well. I think that he and Diana genuinely like each other, though his frequent intrusions get irritating even to her and she knows that he would clean her out like a vacuum cleaner if she let him.

with diana
Diana and my last doggie Toni – they totally adored each other.  If you ever encounter her out in front of the building (she has taken to wearing a sweater over her overalls, so there goes one trademark), do say  “Hi” to her and call her by name.  Stop and chat for a while.  She has some social anxiety and avoids groups like the plague, but with one or two other people she usually has a good time.  When I stop by next, she will probably say something like “You must have written about me again – I’m more famous than ever.”

DJ can be so intrusive and softly pushy.

“Miss Diana, can I get a cigarette?
“No, honey, you’ve come by four times already today – no more.”
“Uh, ma’am, maybe just one cigarette?”
“No, I’m very low myself – I’m almost out.”
“If I give you 50 cents, would you give me a cigarette?”

Diana will acknowledge openly to us, when DJ is not there, that he does eventually piss her off.  She doesn’t like to be angry at people – it’s way outside of her comfort zone, but she really kind of embraces the opportunities to practice holding a boundary.  Already in the last few months she has started to get better at this, will save up stories to tell us about how she held a boundary (sometimes with DJ) – and really believes she is already a slightly healthier person because of it.

In my maybe four encounters with DJ, I have been consistently slightly mean and unwavering in my resistance to his (polite) requests for cigarettes (and money?  I can’t quite remember if he ever asks us for money.  Certainly cigarettes is the main thing.)  I’m not usually this nasty to street people.  I think that in certain areas my newfound commitment to solid boundaries has not yet translated into more open heartedness.   I don’t like it that he invades our turf with his panhandling.  I have not quite said to DJ, but certainly have thought: “It’s one thing to keep it over there, on some other street corner. But don’t start bringing your begging over into our peaceful, happy, playful – and private – place.”  And, finally and probably the most central, I do get very protective of Diana’s space and mad at DJ for being so pushy with her.

Yesterday afternoon at five, we had mostly run through an encounter with DJ that already had showed most of the qualities I describe above.   He was politely pushing Diana for a cigarette and almost sweetly refusing to take no for an answer – even though Diana had just done a pretty good job of protecting her boundary.

My voice is naturally louder than Diana’s. And it is more readily capable of carrying assertiveness, meanness and even a hint of menace – as a couple of weeks ago when I said to the old bat who, from half-way down the street, was continuing to yell at me that my Pancho was the real problem between Pancho and her wonderful little dog – and, actually, that I was the real problem.  I don’t know what threatening movie character I channeled when I yelled, “Don’t make me come over there!”  And I think I was probably breaking some building policy that you are not allowed to threaten another resident – but it was such a new behavior for me and popped out so effortlessly that it was totally thrilling, and got the job done.  She did shut up and go away.  She probably was thinking, “Fuck, he has totally snapped.  He’s going to come over here and beat the shit out of me.”

In this case with DJ, I don’t think my voice was really carrying menace when I said to him, “She already said ‘No‘.” But it was so curt and sharp that DJ was apparently deciding he had worn out his welcome and was getting ready to go.

(The real problem with my intervention was that no intervention was really needed.  Sure, Diana’s “No” had not gotten DJ to back off – but she had said it and had not given up a cigarette, so this was already a success for her. Could she take the next step and raise her own voice – maybe put more of a non-sweet edge in it, to drive away the intruder?  Maybe she would have risen to the occasion yesterday.  But, if she had not quite gotten there, we could have debriefed the event together and gotten her more ready for the next battle.  I’ve got to stop pushing into the middle of the altercation to protect her.  I mean well, but I am not being genuinely helpful – it’s her fight.  And I will get my turn, because as soon as DJ gives up on Diana he is going to turn to one of the others of us and start with them.

So DJ was getting ready to leave when white 60ish Joe (one of our neighbors who has not been directly involved in any of these  encounters, but has apparently been building up a charge against DJ) strides kind of aggressively down the street (too close really to DJ) sticks his finger out almost in DJ’s face and, with a low note of masculine menace says “I’m psychic, because I know why you are here – you want money from us.” Really pretty stupid and uninteresting as a mano-a-mano challenge.  I at least am thinking, “Really?  Is that the best you got?”

I was immediately more pissed off at Joe than DJ and – just to jerk him around – said “He actually doesn’t want money, he wants cigarettes”.

Now that my interruption has stopped the mighty Joe in his tracks and that there is a moment of quiet, I launch us into a little debrief of what had just happened between Joe and DJ – with the two of them still standing there.  I started by saying,
“You never should have stuck your finger in DJ’s face – that’s rude and aggressive.”
Lisa – “Yeah, and your tone of voice was too angry.”

Suddenly, even though Joe was in many demographic and personal style ways more like us than is DJ – and he lives in our building – we had been down this road with DJ and kind of knew how to negotiate the curves.  As far as this conversation now was concerned, DJ was more a member of our pack than was Joe and we kind of closed ranks around him.  Nobody actually said, “Who the fuck are you, Joe?  This isn’t your business – go away”.  I would be the most likely to say it, but – having spoken my little piece to Joe, I had immediately shifted my focus to DJ, who I was already starting to kind of like.  Joe left.

Then DJ was getting ready to leave.  As he turns west to face Page Avenue and the AT&T building, he says “Bye everybody – I’ll pray for you all.”

Me: “You’ll pray for us all?” (“Not just for Miss Diana, who is the closest thing to a friend you have here – and maybe anywhere.”)

DJ: “Yeah, I’ll pray for all of you.”

Me: “You’ll pray for me?” (“after I have been so mean to you?”)

DJ: “Yeah, I’ll pray for you.”

Me, fumbling in my Earth Fare grocery bag: “Well then I’ll give you a cigarette, if you’re going to pray for me.”

Before I even get my cigarette pack out of my grocery bag, DJ starts to pray:

He throws his head back and looks skyward.  His prayer is at moments kind of halting, but mostly really pretty self-assured. His voice is almost too loud, but the loudness is really mostly effective.  None of us is thinking that he is a professional preacher or leads the prayers at some little Christian church, but he clearly has done this before, if maybe never for other people before or never before at this volume.  It probably is “some of the crazy things he mutters to himself as he wanders the streets of downtown Asheville.”

DJ’s prayer was all about forgiveness, trust and love.  He was asking some higher power to bless us all – all of us, no exceptions.  I don’t think he said one thing that any of us had any theological problem with.  And it all was very beautiful – strong, self-assured, calm, trusting in this God that DJ never attempted to describe.  He needed a little help from the ever-more-assertive Diana to wrap it up: was clearly warming to the task, might have prayed well longer if allowed to – but he responded well to Diana’s guidance, and then promptly took off.

This leaves us Battery Park residents who can (maybe just barely) afford to go the Up In Smoke shop on Tunnel Road next to the Ingles and buy cigarettes (not $6 American Spirits, but $3.50 Natives – American Spirits knock-offs that claim to be similarly additive free, and so basically healthy.)

We look at each other and, almost in unison, say “Wow!”  DJ had given us something that we did not expect.  Lisa says, “That was beautiful!” and we all agree.  It would be a great understatement to say I will never see DJ the same way again.  I may even be nice to him.  I may even give him a cigarette – at least until I quit, which will probably be next week. 🙂

 

David Wilson Brown for NC U.S. House District #10

My Toni with David Wilson Brown, who is again running to represent the 10th Congressional District.

with DWB
David Wilson Brown with my “angelic little being”, yorkiepoo Toni

He made points with me back in 2018 by bringing his big chocolate lab with him to a Candidates Forum at the Dem. Party HQ. When all four candidates had had their chance to speak and the meeting was breaking up, I don’t think he stuck around to press any flesh. Me and Toni left right after the meeting was over and David was already running his dog down the road.

I went on to volunteer with David, once a week through the election cycle. He is such a great guy!  Smart, warm, real. His campaign manager, Kathie Kline, was a dream – such a real, warm, rich supportive person.  I don’t know if she has come back for this cycle – I emailed her last night.

David is up against Patrick McHenry, who has been in office since 2004.

WNC – and Asheville – are so gerrymandered that it can be confusing to know your Congressional district.
Go to this site and enter your zip code – 20 seconds.
https://ziplook.house.gov/htbin/findrep_house

http://www.dwb4congress.com

https://www.facebook.com/DWB4Congress/ – see the photo of David with Toni!

 

Dr. Steve Woodsmall for Congress

NC U.S. House District #11
WNC – and Asheville – are so gerrymandered that it can be confusing to know your Congressional district.
Go to this site and enter your zip code – 20 seconds.

I met Steve two years ago and liked him quite a lot.  When I entered the West Asheville Library meeting room, where he was going to be speaking – before introducing himself to me –  he got down on one knee and said hello to my little yorkiepoo Toni.

Steve Woodsmall
Steve and my angelic little Toni (RIP 10/1/18)

I was completely charmed.  He’s a huge dog person. For a while, he had my picture of him holding my little Toni on his web site, but I think no more.

I’m planning to attend this Town Hall on Thursday, 10/10, 6 p.m. at Rainbow Community School in West Asheville.

Here’s Steve’s website.

 

Peace – Being Well-Used

This blog explores the interplay among resistance, peace and love for social activism – or simply trying to make some positive difference in the world.  My last post was about resistance and I promised that the next post would be about peace – after which I totally crapped out.  It has now been two months and I have written nothing about peace.  I think it’s partly a general sinking I have experienced in these two months about social activism – and partly an overwhelm with the topic.  Peace is just such a big deal, even in a more limited application to social action.

But there has lately surfaced for me more clarity about my own activist path – and out of that has come one window around peace and social justice.  Just one window among what I’m sure are many ways that peace applies here – enough to keep me writing for a good long while – but a window that to me is feeling very significant, very meaningful.

One way we can experience peace around our social activism efforts is when we feel that we are being well-used.  Our talents are right for making a difference.  We are in the right place at the right time – and we are the right person for the job.

After the November election, I sank into the same depression as so many progressive people.  Finally, on Monday, January 30, an email came across my inbox from MoveOn – a progressive group with which I had done some canvassing during the presidential campaign and which I like.   They were organizing a national effort called “Resist Trump Tuesdays” in which on many successive Tuesdays you would gather outside of your U.S. senator’s office to protest the Trump agenda: “NO BAN, NO WALL”, “PROTECT OUR HEALTH CARE”, “INVESTIGATE TRUMP/PUTIN” etc.  This effort felt right to me and I started to wake from my post-election depressive sleep.  There was a rally listed for downtown Asheville the next day at the Federal Building outside of Republican Senator Burr’s office – even though he is never there, never comes to Asheville – and I decided to go, and instantly felt a lot better.

don't give up - amanda
Amanda was one of our most reliable rally people. Her friend Russ made this Resist graphic.

Because I was at the rally early, I got to hear Susan, who had organized it, vent: “I’m not the right person for this. I don’t have the temperament or the skill set.  I did it just because I didn’t want to go to Hendersonville” (an hour away, the next closest senator’s office).  On the spot, I started to think: “I do have a lot of the skill set – I practiced organization development in corporations and am a good organizer.  I’ve been a professional coach and know how encourage and motivate people.  I’m a good public speaker.”  (Little did I know that my very lack of the necessary mobilizing skills would limit my effectiveness in this project.)

I told Susan I would be glad to take over, if she would pass along to me what she had learned in the process of organizing this rally.  She was thrilled.  It was clear to me then and since that she had let herself be well-used: she heroically – in the face of in many ways not being fit for the job – played the role she was meant to play.  She got the thing off the ground.

The early weeks of Asheville Resist Trump Tuesdays were kind of thrilling.  flag - twinsWe had a lot of people come out and they were really happy to be there, wanted an outlet for their upset about what was going on in Washington.  People came out with wonderful signs.  Cars passing by would beep their horns and give us a thumbs up – way more than those who would swear at us and give us the finger.  The third Tuesday we had 100 people and made the TV evening news.what democracy looks like - Anna

I was totally pumped.  I really thought I was the right person in the right place.  I registered each rally with MoveOn, so people could find them on the MoveOn database. I created a Facebook page.  I assiduously got everybody’s email addresses and sent out an email update every week.  I took lots of photos to put on the Facebook page and hopefully encourage people.  I created little informal business cards and handed them out around the community, including at work where there was some risk in doing so.  I dialed into the MoveOn support conference calls every Sunday night, which I found very informative and motivational, and took lots of notes on the calls.  I started to write this blog.

That 100 person turnout was our peak.  The next week there were 45 people, then 25, then 14.  Some of us would have conversations about why our numbers were falling off.  Maybe people were bored with the format of just waving signs.  We borrowed a bullhorn and tried having speeches.  The word was that the Hendersonville rallies were drawing hundreds of people, even though Hendersonville is a smaller community and more conservative.  What were we doing wrong?  I couldn’t shake a growing question of what was I doing wrong?

When we had shrank to six people, I very sincerely asked them if it was time to pull the plug – and each of them emphatically said they didn’t want to do that, that they wanted this, needed it.  So I got excited and once more threw everything at it. The next week we had three people – and I did pull the plug.

For a few weeks, I stopped all activist activities.  An associate who I think was angry at me for not living up to her activist expectations of me told me angrily that I was just burned out – and I had no answer.  But when a couple of weeks later she said it again, with even more fire, I said, “I don’t think I’m burned out – I’m just lost.  I don’t know what to do.  I’m discouraged, but I haven’t given up.  I haven’t given up on doing something for the movement – I want to do something.  I just don’t know what it is.”

A week ago, another email came through from MoveOn.  “Resistance Summer” will train 1000 people to be better organizers – and focus them to resist Trump.  This clicked for me immediately.  In the background over these weeks, I had been getting glimpses of my own shortcomings as an organizer.  MoveOn had what apparently were extensive databases of resources for organizing your local rallies – and I had never looked at them, preferring to trust my gut instincts.  I saw periodic references to organizing a leadership team for your rally, but I was it for leading this rally – I made only a couple of minimal swipes at having anybody help me.  If I’m to really make a difference, I need to learn a lot more about organizing.

I have also taken on some leadership in my church social justice team – and similarly there I was dead in the water, not following through on the tasks I had taken on.  But yesterday, three days after applying for the Resistance Summer (I haven’t been accepted yet), I didn’t just do the five calls I was committed to for this social justice team – I did nine calls and it was fun, exciting.

What is calling you? What would it look like for you to be well-used?  I think more than at any time in the recent past lots of us feel a need to do something.  Are we meant to make calls to Congress?  To attend a rally?  A meeting?  To keep up with our reading?  To read this blog?

What kind of support do we need to move towards action?  Do we need to talk to a friend?  A pastor?  Do we need to take the topic into prayer? Meditation?  To church?  I take it into dance – hold the intention, then dance and see where that takes me.

I think we all need to hold ourselves lovingly.  What we have so far done or not done is just right.  If we criticize ourselves it’s going to be harder to get clear.  We can know and remember that we are smart and talented and resourceful – and that life will find ways to guide us towards that contribution we are uniquely scripted to make.

Cowspiracy

I’m a meat-eater.  I’m pretty clear on that.  I eat all manner of meat – from the healthy meat at the health food supermarket where I work to grungy fast-food meat.  I have seen no likelihood of me making any major changes in my eating habits.  So why, when my lovely friend Cam invited me to come to her wonderful tavern/community meeting place THE BLOCK off biltmore http://theblockoffbiltmore.com/ to see a movie about veganism, did I get scared to see it?  I did get scared – I thought this might mess with me, might turn me upside down.

Cowspiracy movie  Cowspiracy_poster

Cam is herself the best ad for veganism.  To know her is to like her – a lot.  She has such integrity and so much passion for the issue that it’s hard to hear her talk about it, even a little bit, without getting interested in it.  I want to be like she is.

I myself have a growing passion for the environment, for mother earth.  I was one of many people powerfully influenced by Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth: I came away from that movie greatly concerned for the vulnerability of our sweet planet earth.  The onslaught of anti-environment legislation pouring out of Donald Trump and the Republican congress has me very, very concerned.  I have been working diligently to help organize this week’s Asheville People’s Climate Rally – and have some hopefulness that our 200+ marches nationwide will get a good turn-out and will make a difference, including to fire up the modern environmental movement.  I picture myself getting arrested over this issue.  It’s not that I want to – I just think we may reach a point where totally legal actions no longer do the job.  Rev. Barber says we have already reached that point – and I trust him.

I didn’t expect this movie to pack a punch around the environment.  I should have expected this, because when I asked Cam if the movie was going to be about the environment, she said “Big time.”  I still didn’t get it.  Wow, is this movie ever about the environment, especially air and water pollution.  I could see myself become vegan just to be a good, responsible environmentalist.  But there’s lots more reasons.  I feel like I’m in the process of becoming a vegan – not there yet, but starting to make the change.

Resistance

Sometimes peace and love don’t have a real chance until you have done some resisting, but folks with new age  pretensions sometimes don’t know how to give resistance a chance.  The phrase “What we resist persists” has so slipped into the new age lexicon that some people will utter this sentence smugly and then feel they have just understood something.   It has zapped into their consciousness and they are unable see this innocent word in new ways.

If someone tries to harm my child, I’m going to resist them.  If I’m a black belt in Aikido, I may be able to resist them elegantly, without messing them up too much (though my old Aikido instructor used to say that if the other person’s violent energy causes  them to fall hard on the floor and hurt themselves, that’s  their karma.  He also used to say that if you stop them from hurting somebody – including you – you have saved them from some negative karma.)  Since I stopped practicing Aikido 30 years ago and have no remaining skill, if I want to stop the villain from hurting my child I may need to use a big stick – and I will.

The morning of the afternoon I was going to my first Resist Trump Tuesday rally, over breakfast I told some of my friends where I was going and three of them just totally jumped in my shit about the “resist” word.  “It’s negative”, “It’s not spiritual”, “It’s a bad word” and the final take-down “What you resist persists”.  I knew instinctively that they were wrong, but it was my first “Resistance” rally, the first time I ran into this buzz-saw of new age orthodoxy,  so I didn’t respond as elegantly as I would have liked.  I don’t think I literally said, “That’s the biggest pile of bullshit I ever heard”, but I think they could hear this in the lame-ass words I did use.  I didn’t have the presence of mind to ask, “Why do you feel the need to resist a little word?”, but it would have been totally appropriate.

I had just a day before written my “Sweet Peace” poem that had been commissioned by my church for an upcoming peace concert.  (https://avlresist.blog/2017/02/07/sweet-peace-majo/) This exchange over breakfast made me realize that my poem was missing some stuff – and I went right home and wrote a section on the value of resistance:

4 planning
My three dancers get some last-minute guidance from me.

Our work is to take to the barricades
Our work is to get arrested when that is our calling
Our work is to sit in and block traffic
And to be very, very noisy
To resist evil is a form of love
We will give “no!” a good name
Without some good, solid no’s
Our yes’s have no meaning
No integrity
To resist is to take a stand
To stand for something
To stand in their way
To stand up to Trump
Stand tall
To say, “You will go no further”
“You will not do this unchallenged”
“You will pay a price for this”
And “Yes I will stand for the poor and homeless
The immigrants, the oppressed.”
“Yes I will stand for the constitution
For equal rights under the law
For love.”

That made the poem a lot stronger, but a few weeks later a “Resist” t-shirt made it stronger still.  Several weeks after writing that last passage – and the day of the Peace Concert where I would be performing the poem – I was at my favorite ecstatic (free-form, improv) dance at nine in the morning.  When I had been dancing maybe 15 minutes and had gotten warmed up enough to strip off my outer shirt, it revealed underneath my brand-new “Resist” shirt.  I thought “This will be interesting – what’s it like to dance resistance?”

unveiling my Resist shirt
The “Resist” t-shirt gets unveiled at the concert

It was wonderful: energized, empowered, playful, frisky.  And it liberated some new poetry.  I right away grabbed the little spiral notebook that this writer keeps with him wherever he goes, and revised that passage above like this:

Our work is to take to the barricades
Our work is to get arrested when that is our calling
Our work is to sit in and block traffic
And to be very, very noisy
To resist evil is a form of love
We will give “no!” a good name
Without some good, solid no’s
Our yes’s have no meaning
No integrity
To resist is to take a stand
To stand for something
To stand in their way
To stand up to Trump
Stand tall
Rise up
Be proud of who you are
Oh, no they can’t take that away from me
Don’t touch her
Mess with him and you mess with me
Rise up
Say it with me
Rise up
Say it again
Rise up
One last time
Rise up

For me, the heart of that stanza is two lines:

“Don’t touch her”

which I deliver almost with a snarl – with a sense of menace that is not typical of me but feels totally right.  I see the offender immediately backing right off.  And

“Mess with him and you mess with me.”

I see myself protecting an undocumented man who is being threatened by an ICE agent.  One way I have pictured it is that I handcuff myself to my Mexican friend and say to the threatening agent, “You can’t take him without taking me.”  I knew this line had a powerful effect on my audience, though it was one of the first times I had managed to deliver it without getting choked up.

4 of us -me rdg in background
I read the poem while my dancers find a moment of repose.

The audience favorite in that stanza, though, was the call and response of “Rise up” – boy, they threw themselves into that stuff.

In the next post, I will talk about how our resistance needs to be informed by peace and love or it turns sour.

Blessings on our show from Stephanie and Alice and Sharon and Cameron

This morning I sent a last-minute, repeat invitation to the show to the seven people I live with at Lotus Lodge.  Stephanie – who apparently was also at her computer early in the morning – responded with her big good wishes and regrets that she couldn’t be there.  I sent her the text of the poem, apologizing that it was nothing compared to what we will deliver on Sunday, live with piano and dancers.  She responded with this,

“While I will miss the energy of the performance piece, it is your spirit that I treasure—and that was so generously and clearly woven into your written text.  As I read your words, I could clearly sense the spirit of you, your passion, the truth that you call forth… You have already gifted me with what you will generously share on Sunday.  Keep believing…”

I have really believed that this poem is bigger than me, that it comes from somewhere else – and that I have a sacred responsibility to support it by things like piano and dancers.  Stephanie’s words felt like a huge confirmation and I immediately forwarded them to my mates – Robert (piano) and Tom, Giovanna and Amanda (dancers).

In an earlier post (https://avlresist.blog/2017/03/14/when-the-resistance-is-aimed-at-me/), I described how – after a very exciting evening of talking about the show with my dancers – something dark came over me and I became convinced that the dancing would not work in that space (“No room on the stage”).  When Alice came through my checkout line at the grocery store this afternoon, she gave me an amazing A-ha around all that.  We were talking about that crisis with the dancers and she said, “Sometimes you have to be willing to let go of your plans.”  This one sentence unlocked so much for me.  I have done a lot of improv – improv poetry, improv dancing, etc.  But we never get the trust thing fully handled.  Talking about the dancing that evening, which was going to be all improvised, it was suddenly all just too much spontaneity for me – too much improvisation.  My poem would be scripted, but everything around me would be uncontrolled.

What tripped me up – what almost tripped up our whole piece – was fear, the desire to control things.  And if anything were to trip up our piece for me Sunday night, it would be fear. I would freeze.  I would stop breathing.  I would stop flowing with the inbreath and outbreath of the piano and dancing flowing around me.  At this point I know that this is the nemesis and will be much less vulnerable to it.  And there’s the blessing I then got from Sharon.

Sharon shouldn’t even have been in my checkout line today.  Alice came through my line with a cart full of groceries at 6:23 – seven minutes before the end of my shift.  I immediately put up my “Lane closed” sign.  I wanted her to be my last customer for so many reasons: she’s beautiful, fascinating and we always have great conversations.  We would certainly have a great conversation about the show – which we did.

So Alice was supposed to be my last customer (think control).  But as she walked away, with me starting to pick up my area, up walked my dancer friend Michelle.  She had three items – and there were so many reasons to let her in!  She’s a good friend of my dancer Tom, she’s a dancer friend of mine – this would be great!  And it was great…except… When I let her in my line, my friend Sharon – with a lot more groceries – saw that my line was open and scooted on in.

My heart sank.  I genuinely was tired.  My dog would need to get out, and I had a lot of tasks queued up for tonight.  But Sharon is genuinely a very cool, deep person and I like her a lot – how could I callously point to the “Lane closed” sign and send her away?  The whole situation had spun out of control.  Had I made a mistake by letting Michelle in?  The mind-fucking had begun.

When Michelle left and Sharon moved forward, I immediately began to relax.  I’ve known Sharon in several contexts and her presence had always set me at ease.  I think she is very aware and spiritual and strong and genuine.  I was starting to get happy.  I pushed back my exhaustion,  reached down deep and pulled up the energy to genuinely encounter her.  And I got paid back beyond my wildest dreams.

If I was going to have one last conversation with a customer today, I was by God going to make that conversation be about the show.  Almost from the first syllable I uttered about it, Sharon started to light up.  By the time I had talked about the enchanted singer-songwriter, headliner of the show, Cecilia St. King, Sharon was filled to bursting.  “This show can’t go wrong because it is real.”  This absolutely hit a nerve for me.  Cecilia seems to me like the real McCoy – like what she is going to offer will come from a very deep and genuine place.  And I honestly feel the same about my poem.  And my pianist and dancers – all improvising – will also be delivering genuine pieces of themselves.

I told Sharon that I would love to have her at the concert  – that I think she would get a lot out of it and that it would be so encouraging for me to see her there in the audience.  We quickly ascertained that she would not be able to be there, but she said, “I don’t need to be there, because I’m there right now.  The concert is happening now.  It is totally surrounded by blessings.  It’s full of grace.  It is protected by God.”  I drank all this in deeply and told Sharon that now she would absolutely be there Sunday night – that I would carry her there.

I was totally blown away by this, but now to punch out, buy four little items, and get home to my dog.  In the back room where we punch out, Cameron (Cam) was also punching out.  I knew from an earlier conversation that he was working until 7 tonight – yikes! I was 30 minutes late clocking out.  But I still got happy.  Cam is one of my favorite co-workers.  He is sweet and smart and has almost zero ego.  I was trying to remember another conversation we had had a few days ago about the concert – but I couldn’t quite pull it up.

“Were you a maybe for the show, or a no?”  

“I guess I’m a maybe – there’s no reason I can’t go.” 

“Well I’ve said things like this to people about the show before, but – based on a conversation I just had – I’m going to say this with a lot more confidence than before.  If there’s any way you can get there, come.  You won’t regret it.  Something very special is going to happen and I don’t want you to miss it.”

I think he really got the message, because he sounded totally genuine (I think he doesn’t know any other way to be) when he said, “OK, I’ll be there.”  And I am really happy that he’ll be there – happy for us and happy for him.