Listening to Vincent Harding speaking of the beloved community touched me deeply.
I was reminded of when I worked at a very large state-run psychiatric facility. Each day there was a struggle. To daily witness another human being writhing on the floor in inexpressible agony, or waiting endlessly by the door for a phantom lover that would never come, was to daily have my heart broken. Slowly a choice was forming: To close myself to their suffering, or feel their pain.
One day the answer was shown to me.While at the geriatric unit, I was trying to comfort a patient who had become uncharacteristically terrified."Is this real?" She said fearfully.I spoke consoling words to her, but they had no effect."Is this place haunted? Am I ghost? Help me! I am afraid!" She said with such pleading, that I can only picture a child lost in the dark uttering them.
"Here, this is for you. I've been saving it for a time like now." A patient said placing a partially knit piece of green yarn upon the crown of her head. "It will bring you good luck.""You're doing great! You can make it!" Another elderly woman said resoundingly."Mummble-berrys, and the like, who dee-haw. The good ones, you know." Were the disjointed, but ever so tenderly spoken words of an older man.And on, and on, the patients came one by one, forming a line to greet the confused woman. Yarn, hugs, and flowers were all imparted until the once fearful patient was crying. "I feel better now, it's going to be O.K. now," she said, looking up at all her friends.
As a group, those patients had endured homelessness, rape, emotional and physical abuses, all the while suffering under the crushing weight of mental illness. Yet, they gave what little that had. They gave their hearts away.The beloved community.
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