The Hearts that listen – The Listening Post – Friday, June 28, 2019

By Theresa D. McClellan

There is a quiet space between the negative self-talk we give ourselves and the reality of a harsh day that I like to call the void.

For me, this is where Spirit lives. When I can get quiet and shush the “should-have-dones” and the “if-onlys” and the “why-didn’t-theys, I hear a still small gentle voice saying, you did the best you knew at the time.” Or,you’re on the right track, or “Be Still.”

For some that silent space is a hard place to live.

Today at the Listening Post, an old friend came by to visit. He is a social and philosophical soul and loves to engage in questions on the meaning of life.

He has been clean and sober for two months, and I’ve been blessed to watch his demeanor and his physical appearance change from when I first met him at least six months ago when his clothes were filthy, his eyes and hair were wild and his manner apologetically aggressive. He shared that he now has his own apartment and leads on a job. But the burden of living on the streets, being eyed with disdain by strangers and shunned by family has taken its toll. It feeds into his negative self-talk.

As he sat at the Post and told Father Rich and I about his day and his musings on everything that came into his mind, he shared that he was bored.

While Father Rich and I agreed that boring is a good day, our friend shared that he didn’t feel that was true for the homeless. Father Rich asked him what a good day would look like for him and it’s the kind of day where he has enough to eat, and no one harasses, and he finds something he can use on the streets, like change or a backpack,or hey finding you guys, Richard and Theresa he said with a big grin.

Between the moments of levity, he frequently grew sad, feeling people were watching him and judging him and he told of feeling betrayed by “friends” on the street who could not accept the new choices he was making in his life.

His speech is incessant. He said he talks to fill the void. “Sometimes I think of my life, and I just kick myself down the street, like a can, he said and demonstrated by jumping up and kicking at an imaginary object down the sidewalk, all the while calling it worthless.

He said he tells himself he will never meet his goals of finishing school, getting a job, having a family. I reminded him that he’d just told me he was clean and sober for two months and that was quite the accomplishment. We urged him to remember how he used to behave and live when drugs and alcohol were a priority.I reminded him there was power in those decisions to seek a different path, and there was more inner strength where that came from.

As we spoke, a young man across the street, seemingly under the influence of a substance, was flailing his arms, gyrating and staggering. Another acquaintance helped him down the sidewalk. “See right there, that’s Kush, said our friend. He recognized the symptoms of Kush, a common street drug that has deferred many dreams.

As the second hour of the Listening Post passed, we talked about the meaning of friendship, love, self-care and the power of silence; giving himself the gift of shutting off the negative talk and being gentle with himself.While we talked, Father Rich saw someone across the street who needed a drink, so he walked across and offered a refreshing cup of ice water to another stranger.

Our visitor and I continued talking. I asked him what he would say to himself if he could not use negative words.“I gotta think about that cuz that’s all I hear in my head.”

I reminded him that we all give ourselves negative messages, but some of us have found healthier ways or friends to buoy us when we are low. I suggested that when he returns to his apartment, he try to quiet his brain and get still. He said when he gets quiet, he hears the devil. I told him that’s why God gave us elbows to knock the devil out of the way. He got a kick out of that imagery.I told him that when God or Spirit is talking to me, there are no negative words, no harsh or harmful thoughts. I told him that in the silence, I hear what God is telling me, the vision God has for me and how God sees me.

It is in the silence where God fills the void.

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In Midtown every Friday from noon to 2 p.m. Trinity Episcopal Church Associate Rector Rev’d Rich and church member and writer Theresa D. McClellan set out treats, a water cooler, and chairs on the sidewalk in front of Trinity Episcopal for “The Listening Post” where anyone may come to sit and talk about their day, their sadness, their joys, anything on their mind. If you feel inclined, join us in this ministry of presence.