We all have a pre- and post-9/11 perspective. Me, pre-911, went to work in running shoes and drank as much coffee as I wanted, all day long. My security was assumed and opportunity was a given. 9/11 was 10 years ago and I am just figuring out who I am, post. It occurs to me that we all morph over time and with age, even with a catalyst like 9/11 we still have to morph. The gift of the catalyst is a little better vision, a little more wisdom so that we can name inspiration when it comes to us. A catalyst like 9/11, or losing a job, a home, a lover can be the generator of creativity.
One Wednesday a month I serve lunch at the Bridge, a homeless resource in the heart of Dallas where creativity is pretty hard to discern. Yesterday I poured water, which meant I could talk to folks, ask how they are, learn something.
I poured water over a wad of cash passed between hands in a Winston pack, I was told that Jesus was my savior, a guy named Roman said he got his name for a type of shotgun favored for annihilation.
I also got to know two pretty amazing people. A man who's played the Blues all over the South asked if I wanted him to sing something for me. In the soup kitchen there's a horribly-tuned upright, he told me to follow him and stand by, he told me he was the only one left from his band, the others had... The bad acoustics in there made for a muffled sound, but when the music started, clients stayed sitting a lot longer than on other days. The piano player said he likes to play when he can, he said "these folks need it". I'm a good conversationalist so I replied "yes sir, WE ALL DO." Really? And do all of us appreciate a good pair of shoes a couple sizes too big for the 3 pairs of socks we wear to not get blisters? And isn't it great to get tipped off when a restaurant is putting out leftovers? The Blues guy said "Maybe we do, but things aren't good out here, we're having big problems. Some folks don't like each other and music's about all that brings them to earth." Imagine living the meanness of the street and having to deal with people not liking you. Pretty basic.
The piano player played and I kept pouring water and Ernestine sat down. I watched her, she was sitting next to a guy with cornrows who could have been her grandson if she'd started early; she had cataracts, he couldn't keep his pants up. From time to time she'd stroke him on his neck and whisper to him to eat. When their water ran down I went over and talked to them, they weren't related, Ernestine said, "We's married." Lucky man, I told him, to have someone stroke you like that, make you feel beautiful. Music played as the infighting raged, men were named after assault rifles, and yet, this strange pair loved each other.
Before they got moved along, Ernestine asked me what tribe I'm in. I know I must be in one, but I was surprised she thinks in those terms like I do, me rich white girl, she an old black lady living on the streets. It occurred to me then that I have no idea what tribe I'm in, and she said, "well, I knew when you saw me across the room that you recognized our tribe. I love you, girl, you in my tribe."
The creative part is what we bring to the table. How we see what people need, not just food and water but music to calm upset, and the sense of the Universe that connects us.
"Call it a network
Call it a tribe
Call it a family
Whatever you call it
Whoever you are
you need one."
- Jane Howard (1936-1996)