After starting the Women’s March Los Angeles one year ago, I am always finding ways to be of service to humanity.
This is how I March:
Wake up and get ready for work. My client texts me and says she can meet me at the studio this morning instead of her home if I prefer, I say ‘sure, let’s do that.’ I go to work and train my beautiful client and shower her with as much health and wellness as I possibly can. After our session I walk her to her car to help her with some fun Christmas presents she purchased from me and then proceed to walk to my car. The light is timed just so that I cross the street and begin to walk to my car on the south side of the street, which I don’t always do; I often walk on the other side and cross later. All the details are because I was obviously being guided to be right where I was at the exact moment I was supposed to be there to have the experience that follows.
I see a man sitting cross legged on the sidewalk with his backpack and he kindly looks up at me and asks if I could spare some change for him to get a breakfast burrito.
I smile back and say ‘What happened? Why are you here on the street?’
He pauses and then tears up a bit and gets slightly shy and says ‘I’m heart broken.’
I then ask ‘Why, what happened?’
He admitted he got out of prison a month ago for a bar fight he got into protecting his girlfriend who was being harassed by some men. He said he has a hard time at the half-way houses because of the types of people, ‘lifers’, who are staying there so he feels safer on the street. He shared that when he went to find his family after being released from prison after five years, they were all gone and had dispersed and cannot find them. He admitted that he has PTSD from his time in the service and has seen and done things that haunt him to this day, that he was abused as a child; everything you can imagine has happened to this man. And at 50 years-old he sat in front of me as a human being in a very humble place.
(PS I was very aware of my surroundings, I had my phone in my hand and had managed to dial 911 on my phone had I needed to press CALL, there was a private security guard for the building we were in front of just feet away from us and there were many people around and I kept a safe distance and was always aware of his hands and he had nothing near him that could be used as a weapon and his eyes were truly kind. I did feel safe and I was being smart. I also managed to text my husband while sitting there speaking with him for this hour, as to notify my husband of what I was doing in case anything were to transpire that compromised my safety. I know some of you reading this might worry about me and I want to add this now so you can continue reading the beauty of this story and not be concerned for my safety.)
I purposely squat down so I am at his level and sit and talk with him for an hour as he proceeds to tell me about his life and how he ended up where he is now.
He sits there, silently, and then a minute or so later says ‘Why are you helping me? Why do you see my soul and see right through me? How do you know just what to say to me? Nobody sees me and you see me. Who are you?’
I smile and introduce myself to him and we shake hands, his name is Eli. I simply tell him that I am someone who cares and that his life matters and even though his ‘family’ might not be present for him right now, that doesn’t mean he matters any less on this planet and that humanity is behind him and I am part of humanity. So how can I help?
I could smell alcohol on his breath so I say to him ‘I can smell that you have been drinking, are you in a recovery program currently?’ He wasn’t drunk but I could smell alcohol so I wanted him to know that I saw him for who he was in the moment; in the now and I wasn’t going to bullshit him or just hand him cash. ‘I’m the kind of person who helps you get your life back on track, not the person who just buys you breakfast so if you are ready for help I am here to help you. Are you ready?’
He again, begins to tear up and turns his head down to the concrete and silently says ‘I am definitely an alcoholic. I messed up. I was in Cri-help treatment center and got out and started drinking again.’
I said, ‘It’s okay. Many people have to go back and get more help. It is hard once you leave to maintain sobriety. Can I help you get to a meeting?’
He then said ‘I left Cri-help with a ‘privilege card’ which means that I am in good standing with them. Would you help me get back there?’
I said, ‘Of course I will.’
Then he paused and said ‘Can I think about it for a bit and perhaps get back to you and get my head straight about going back there? I am so embarrassed. They were so good to me and I let them down by drinking again, I know I disappointed them.’
I said, ‘I promise you there is nothing to be embarrassed about. Going back and asking for more help is the most beautiful, manly, honest thing you can do for yourself. I will take you now if you want. There is no accident that we met just now and I went to work today when I wasn’t supposed to, and I walked along this side of the street and you happened to be here. I don’t even come to my work on Fridays and here I am and here you are.’
He said, ‘Okay, let’s do it. Will you walk me there? It’s on Vineland and Burbank’ which is five minutes from where we were.
I said, ‘Absolutely, let’s go.’
I again texted my husband where I was going with him and got the address on my phone as we walked. He was very kind and we chatted and shared life stories. I told him about my mother’s suicide and how much her life mattered but she chose to leave. He told me about his upbringing and that he is from Texas but came out here as a child and went to Pacoima Jr. High.
I then said ‘Wait a minute, Pacoima Jr. High Magnet School? I went there!!’
He said ‘Yup, that’s the one. Off Laurel and Osbourne. I’m a little older than you so I was there before you.’
He started naming my junior high school teachers and talking about the campus and we both laughed and smiled at the coincidence. He is a religious man and spiritual as well (figures I would stop to help a stranger who happens to be connected with God, spirituality and went to my junior high!) 🙂
He continues to thank me, is quite chivalrous, mentions how much he would love to meet my husband as I talked about my husband’s journey a lot to him as we spent almost two hours together. He continues expressing gratitude for my kindness, for believing in him and says to me, ‘Would you be my friend? I don’t have any friends. I have no one who believes in me so I start thinking I shouldn’t believe in me either’. I shake his hand and say ‘Yes, I will be your friend. Take care of yourself and stick with this because you are worth it.’ He shakes my hand and looks me in the eye and says ‘I promise.’
I offer to get him a breakfast croissant at the corner deli as we are almost at Cri-Help and he smiles and says ‘yes, please’.
I am buying him his breakfast and a woman walks in and smiles at me and then sees Eli and Eli gets up and they hug. Her name is Tammy and she is the head intake counselor at Cri-Help, which is next door, and he introduces us and I tell her what just happened and that he is coming back in for treatment. She was so kind and loving and obviously really cared for this gentleman. We get his food and walk him next door and she begins the process of intaking him for treatment.
I sit with him for a few more minutes and exchange cell phone numbers. Every employee/counselor who walks by us stops and gives him this great big, long bear hug and I know he is in good hands. They all ask him ‘What happened?’ in the most loving, nonjudgmental tone. He simply says ‘I messed up.’ They simply say back to him ‘It’s okay, it’s hard out there. You’re back now and we will help you.’ It was so beautiful to stand by and witness this all unfold.
I chose to not stay with him because I felt my part of his journey had come to an end and my work was done. I connected with Tammy and she gave me her number so I could check on him. I told him my husband and I would come up and visit him. Tammy explained that he won’t be able to have visitors for a few weeks or use his phone but he can probably ask a counselor if it is okay to let you know how you are doing because you helped him find his way back here. I said thank you and shook Eli’s hand once more and left him in good hands.
As I walked back to my car I felt so touched by this whole experience. We all drive by these homeless people every day, multiple times a day, and we have no idea what the story is behind their life, who they are, what they need, what their name is. I know each experience isn’t like this and I know it isn’t always possible to help this deeply but I am grateful that today I was put right where I was put to be of service in this way.
I sit here in gratitude for the opportunity to meet Eli and hear his story and share my story. I know his journey to recovery will be a long one and filled with challenges and possible set backs but I truly believe that today I set a new imprint in his brain that he has value in this world, that he matters and that he is worth working hard for and people do care; strangers care, humanity cares.
I told him, ‘How you can thank me is to stick with this, get better, stay sober and turn it around and pay it forward by getting a job at Cri-Help or another facility like it and be a counselor and help others; do what I did for you, for someone else.’ He is also a plumber by trade so I also said ‘Or be a plumber, since plumbers make so much money, make a lot of money and open up your own recovery facility and be of service to humanity.’
Moral of this story:
Slow down, live life in service by being radically kind and open-hearted. Be safe, be smart and be present with humanity. Look up, look people in the eye, speak to strangers, see people, see your fellow human, love fully, give openly, be wise and be powerful; because you are. Also to trust that you always are right where you need to be. We may not know the reasons why but we can trust.
Thanks for listening.
Thank you Cyd for placing me right where I needed to be today by changing your appointment.
Love to you and yours.
**Because I was so focused on getting Eli the help he needed by getting him admitted at Cri-Help, I wasn’t even thinking about my team of angels who always surround me and everything I do with love and support.
For those of you who would like to make Eli’s holiday season warm and bright you are welcome to contribute and I will make sure he receives all the love you have to shower upon him.
I just spoke to Cri-Help and they do have strict regulations as to what can be brought to them while they are under their care. I am speaking with Tammy, his intake counselor, on Monday to see how we can make his Christmas a special one and show him support. I will let you know what she says. He is going in on Tuesday; he will be on the streets or at a shelter until then unfortunately. 🙁
The only items we are allowed to bring him are:
coffee, cigarettes, tea, soda, toiletries, stationery, and money. They are allowed to have up to $500 in a trust account in their name and we are only allowed to contribute money to that trust via credit card or money order, no cash and no checks.
So, for now, here are my thoughts, like many of you have done in the past when I was helping John and Lisa get off the streets, feel free to send me money via PayPal at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will use that money and make a deposit into his trust at Cri-Help. I will replenish it as needed to keep him taken care of while he is there. Also you can send him Christmas cards or simply cards of any kind, notes of support and encouragement as he is on this journey, or share how his journey has touched your life, etc. You can send them to me at my studio: 5200 Lankershim Blvd. Suite 100 North Hollywood, CA 91601 and/or you can drop them off at my home for those of you who are local and know where I live. Call me or email me if you have any questions.
Also, if you would like to donate some beautiful stationary for him and/or some new toiletries I know that would be greatly appreciated. I am happy to collect these items and bring them to him when I am allowed to. Also any type of teas would be nice.
Let me know your thoughts also, I would love for you all to be involved in any way you wish to be. As always, thank you for your love and support of things I love and support.
You are my village and I am blessed to know you; seriously blessed.