One of the things I’ve been working on lately is having the courage to do things alone. I am in awe of Harriet Tubman who went alone down into the south where she risked being re-enslaved, or murdered, to rescue people. Alone.
Sometimes some command to do something wells up in me, but I tamp it down, afraid. I always want someone to do it with me as if that gives me permission. When I think about it rationally, I think, how stupid to let the fear of what others might say keep me from doing something courageous that’s needed. But I do. I think the fear of condemnation by others far outweighs any fear for my physical wellbeing.
Last night I went to a vigil for a shelter-less man, Roberto, who died in the doorway of the old UHaul Rental store just a few blocks from my house. It was a good experience with neighbors.
Two men who had been his friends came a little bit into the vigil with candles and faces engraved with grief. They were day laborers and talked about how hard it had been for Roberto working only one or two days a week. How hard it had been for Roberto — and I knew they were also speaking about how hard it is for them. They said much more in Spanish and some of it was translated by someone there, but much wasn’t.
Two different men played Indian flutes, one Navajo flute and one a Mayan flute with a drone.
When the first man started playing the flute (such a perfect instrument, a perfect sound for this vigil in front of an empty car rental store, on a busy city street), I found my body demanding to dance on behalf of Roberto, and all the other Robertos. My whole body wanted to move and I felt no need to silence it. I tried to move to the back of the group where there was space, but I was penned in, leaning against the wall right next to the flute player, who didn’t want to move out in front of the group. Nor did I have any desire to dance in front of the group. Just to dance. A demanding, overwhelming urge.
The two friends stayed in the middle, facing the shrine, where they belonged. Our silence, the music, was as much for them as it was for Roberto.
I closed my eyes and the flow came, empty of words. My hands moved, the rest of me anchored to the wall. I sank into some other place letting my arms flow with the need, with the music, with some kind of bodily awareness of the needs of these men. A kind of oneness with… something… happened.
When I opened my eyes one of the two friends was crying. I thought that he was crying for Roberto, and maybe also for himself.
I feel like I’ve graduated in some way. Moved into a space where I can feel what I feel, let flow through me … something … and do what I do without worrying about what others think. Truly give the gift on behalf of this man and all shelter-less people everywhere. And it was good.
Tonight I danced alone. I didn’t risk my life freeing slaves. Not yet. But I danced alone letting go of all the self-consciousness. I danced for the man who died and for all the shelter-less people who die alone. And it was good.