On Sunday, we took a group of kids to do a service project at the Central Night Shelter for Men here in downtown Atlanta. After learning about the shelter, we came upstairs to join the yoga practice offered by a volunteer each week.
Everyone laid out their mats in rows. Kids sitting right beside their brothers affected by homelessness. No noses wrinkling or turning up. Just this deference for these men and a respect that, probably, they'd never even considered offering someone in that position.
And so. Together we did yoga. Quietly finding inner peace in mountain poses, downward facing dog poses and sun salutations. The men marveled at how easily those lithe little ones folded their bodies into those Child's poses and those kids giggled when the grown ups needed foam blocks because they couldn't touch their toes.
It was beautiful, I tell you. All of it.
This morning it was below freezing. Both of my children made mention of the guests of the shelter, required to leave early each morning. They spoke of the frigid air this morning and wondered where they would go. "It's so cold today," Zachary said at the bus stop. "I hope they find somewhere warm and dry," Isaiah mumbled while staring out to the window in carpool.
The volunteers must return to their regular livelihoods each morning and prepare the space for other uses during the day. Sadly, for the shelter guests, they have no choice but to return to their regular livelihoods, too.
"Namaste," the volunteer yogi spoke softly. "This is a greeting that says my soul acknowledges your soul. The light in me honors the light in you."
I loved this because, really, it is everything we'd hoped those 3rd, 4th and 5th grade kids would get out of the session. Seeing the humanity in those experiencing homelessness. Imagining them not as these caricatures penniless, haggard and on the fringes of life. But instead somebody's uncle or daddy or son or friend. . . . a real person as entitled to a piece of this pie called life as any.
Hands pulled close to bosoms. And every man, woman and child under that voice responded in unison:
Honestly? I write this blog to share the human aspects of medicine + teaching + work/life balance with others and myself -- and to honor the public hospital and her patients--but never at the expense of patient privacy or dignity.
Thanks for stopping by! :)
"One writes out of one thing only--one's own experience. Everything depends of how relentlessly one forces from this experience the last drop, sweet or bitter, it can possibly give."
~ James Baldwin (1924 - 1987)
"Do it for the story." ~ Antoinette Nguyen, MD, MPH
Details, names, time frames, etc. are always changed to protect anonymity. This may or may not be an amalgamation of true,quasi-true, or completely fictional events. But the lessons? They are always real and never, ever fictional. Got that?