I remember the first time I arrived in a city without knowing anyone, without having a place to sleep, not having a smartphone nor enough money to stay at a hotel. Asking strangers for the possibility of a place to stay. I slept outdoors behind a set of baseball fields. It was Albany, NY 2009.
I remember the first time I stayed in a home with dirt floors, no windows, a corrugated metal roof and a hole in the ground for it’s bathroom. The whole family of five slept in one structure. The Dominican Republic, 2004.
I remember killing my first batch of chickens. Holding their necks as they gasped their last breaths flailing around. Jefferson, Maine 2010.
I remember the first time I opened up Dona Amelia’s dresser located in her kitchen that was full of glasses and silverware instead of clothes. How none of the glasses matched nor did any of the forks and knives. How we had only two hours of running water every morning and five hours of scheduled blackouts every evening. It was Managua, Nicaragua 2007.
I remember sleeping every night in a place with no running water or electricity because Dan and I wanted to spend our limited funds on the farm more than on our own rent. It was Houston, TX 2016.
I remember working at the Catholic Charities Respite Center scrubbing down the portable bathroom and showers at the end of the day to try and create a human experience for our fellow neighbors in ankle bracelets awaiting their futures here. It was McAllen, Texas 2018.
When Jess asked me to write a blog about what this crisis has meant to me, this is where my mind went. These moments of recalibration when my life changed; when the way I was told the world should be is not how it really was. Where certain bubbles, shelters and explanations that I had been given popped, crumbled and melted away.
It was in these moments that the world took on, not just new meaning, but new possibilities. They forced me into places where I couldn’t hide within the normal pace, structure, and distraction of our society and what I’d been told about it.
When you realize your happiness isn’t tied to whether glasses or silverware match, nor that going to the bathroom in a latrine has any bearing on your self-worth, the world on the other side looks and feels different.
That’s what I feel right now. Like we’re all going through this great recalibration together. A moment of re-figuring out what is most important to us. Who we really are and who the people around us really are.
I’m scared for the members of my community who don’t have the luxury of a support network, reliable sources of good information, access to good healthcare and the fortune of being a citizen. I’m concerned for those who are so overwhelmed by the burdens of being isolated, furloughed or just waiting too long for good news about their situation that they worry themselves into dark places.
This is a time of letting go of control again of those things that are beyond us. Maybe that’s why I have this feeling that says I’ve been here before, that we’ve been here before, and it brings me some sort of comfort. I feel a strong sense of community in my world on the East End and I really believe that my fate is bound up with everyone else’s here; that we all have something of value to bring to the table each day even if it’s just asking for help.
I haven’t spent hardly any time thinking about when this might end, but I have thought a lot about what this time will mean for us and it just brings up more questions.
Do you think you will value the same things when we finally lift the stay at home order?
Do we really want things to go back to how they were?
Is what our old day to day life like actually serving us as individuals, as families, and as a community?