Tuesday, March 4, 2008


I don't know if it is because of my liberal leanings or my upbringing, but I am afflicted with a chronic case of volunteerism.  I often end up taking on things that I, upon reflection, wish I hadn't.

This is not the case today.

On Sunday I worked the overnight shift at a homeless shelter sponsored by the church that my family and I go to.  We had 38 guests and while there were a few folks that fit the stereotype of "homeless person", I was humbled to be reminded of how many of these folks are just like all of us but for having a spot of bad luck that spiraled out of control.  I was certainly very thankful that I could help these folks out with a place to sleep and a meal, but it got me thinking about how close any of us are to this situation.  I know that all it would take for me is a couple of missed paychecks before I would have to make some SERIOUS choices about what I could do without.  As some of the current news in the jazz world reminds us, artists are generally not looked at as a necessity and the economic reality is that many who slave over craft and make huge art live hand to mouth.  I am lucky and thankful everyday to have a day job that both takes care of me and my family very well and is often very personally and professionally satisfying.  I will admit to having taken that for granted as I look around my living room and see the very high stacks of books, records, and CDs that we have amassed.  

Working the shelter was a wonderful, humbling experience that has made me more mindful of both how incredibly lucky I am and how things are so impermanent. 

This is one of my favorite Buddhist passages:

Just like a dream experience,
Whatever things I enjoy
Will become a memory.
Whatever has passed will not be seen again.

I didn't sleep much Sunday night, not because of the work or the discomfort of being away from my own bed, but because I sat in awe of how much courage, compassion, warmth, and love I felt at this shelter from both the volunteers and the guests.

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