And so the challenge was put to me recently by a friend, via email. “Point is that we all have motivations, perhaps in the next newsletter you could tell us about yours?”
It might surprise you to hear that my immediate reaction was to roll my eyes, then quickly mutter under my breath, “Easier said than done.”
What is my motivation? I’m not asking you as much as I’m asking myself — because this question comes up frequently and I have trouble pointing to one, definitive answer.
Not long ago, I was sitting outside the homeless shelter in Port Townsend, watching the shelter staff manager, Terry, talk to a woman whose brain doesn’t work the same way ours does. He told her she could not bring the bulging garbage bag into the shelter because she had too much in there already. He was patient but firm, and I’m pretty sure he’s had this conversation with her before. I thought about Terry and his patience, thought about Shaha in Nepal, and about Madre Vilma in Guatemala taking her vows of poverty, chastity, and service.
When Lynn came out to join me on the benches, I told her what I was thinking about. I asked out loud, “What motivates a person to dedicate their entire life to helping homeless and abandoned elders?” I went on to explain that doing it for a living is one thing, but what Shaha and Madre Vilma do is something entirely different. “How do they come to this decision?” I asked.
“Well,” she replied, taking a drag off her cigarette, “I don’t think it’s something you decide when you’re young. I think it comes to you after some measure of experience. Something — some event — happens in your life and you’re called to do this type of work. You have to be called to it, I think.”
(Recall, here, that Lynn is one of the residents at the homeless shelter. Yes, this is a woman that most people snub when they walk past her on the street.)
So what happened in my life that I decided I needed to do this? It didn’t start when I visited Nepal — that trip merely gave me permission to follow my bliss. It didn’t start when I was homeless, because I was already well aware of older homeless people sitting in the periphery of society’s consciousness. Did it start when I was very young, and always drawn to the elderly around me, wanting to hear their stories? Or did I inherit it in my DNA, from my parents and ancestors in Greece who wouldn’t dream of abandoning their parents?
I don’t know. I guess I was just born this way.
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In the coming weeks, as we wind our way through the giving season, I’ll be introducing you to more of the seniors who benefit from your generosity. I’ll also be updating you on Saani, the newest resident in Nepal, and Kapitah as well. Our web site has been updated with stories from several elders, and I hope to add a few more soon.
Lastly, we’ve got some really big news for you (insert Ed Sullivan impersonation there) coming up next week.