The soul is a sword
on the opiate epidemic in San Francisco
Monday afternoon, as I waited for my bus outside the Civic Center, a dealer walked up to a woman, sells her a mixture of black tar, and lights the foil for her while she pulls out a glass pipe and 30 passengers turn their backs.
On Tuesday, I hold a homeless man’s hand on the 5R (Fulton Rapid) that’s too faded to stand for his stop. The bus driver calls the cops - everyone has to get off, and profanities fly. When there’s standing room only there’s no room for grief. The disparity of the times isn’t just that people are dying and keep dying, it’s that we all continue to look away.
I don’t have a solution to this epidemic. All I know is I carry the antibody to it in my soul. Nothing in this world could ever make me pick up again because my life is worth living. Because the possibility of joy is always on the horizon. Trauma and pain don’t dictate my choices or actions - they don’t even impact my thinking enough to cause lasting cognitive distortions. I wish I could endow whatever this is to others; I’m not concerned with whether or not they’ve earned it - that’s not what grace is about.
Grace isn’t what I planned, hoped, or asked for, but it’s what I’ve received. There’s so much tenderness and compassion in me. I don’t know where they came from or how to name them; I only know how to let them flow (though). Grace only happens to me when I refuse to yield or look away from the uncomfortable things.
The possibilities of grace, love, and joy have been, and will always be, what gets me out of bed when nothing else will. Grace comes to me when I kneel down to cry in the shower, and it comes to me when I’m cackling at a dumb joke at work, climbing a mountain, or dancing to a Carly Rae Jepsen song in Target.
The only things this life promises are bound to wreck us at some point;
so I hope, then, that you revel in the small joys of your life - whatever they may be. I encourage you to laugh, be silly, dance, and not take yourself too seriously. Mary Oliver knew what she was talking about when she said joy was not meant to be a crumb. Crumbs will not sustain our hearts.
Of course, no amount of joy is going to protect us from our or others’ suffering, but it will give us the strength to endure it; and with grace - the ability to transmute it.