By Veronica Pelicaric
I am going through an emotional time. Things could breakdown or breakthrough. Hard to tell. For days I have been experiencing a garden variety of fears lurking in the body, old friends coming to the surface. Pressure in the chest, confusion, struggle, heartache. The prospect of a trip home stirring old wounds.
I go with friends to see the film Selma. It shakes one to the core to see the price people are willing to pay for the right to have a voice, a vote. To evidence the power of nonviolence, how revolutionary it is not to retaliate with violence but to trust that there is a better way. The strength it takes, the Soulforce. How incredibly daring it is to stand up for Life that way. And the evidence of history to this truth, to this victory for humanity. Some tears flow.
I part with my friends and rush to the Metro to meet other friends for dinner. As I search in my bag for the transport pass, I see a young woman sitting on the floor against the wall, begging. Her red face is swollen from tears and drugs. A front tooth missing. I search in my bag for a dollar, but realize that what she really needs is to be seen.
So I kneel down in front of her and start a small conversation. She tells me her boyfriend has abandoned her, a man forty years older than she, a man – in her words – with no heart.
She deplores being on the streets, but what can she do? Nowhere to go. He has not heart, to abandon her this way. She is Inuit, from the frozen Northern Territories. I listen. I brush the tears from her cheeks. I have no words of solace, only my presence. Suddenly another young woman, kind and clear, kneels beside, and now we are two listening. The kind woman suggests a shelter. The Inuit girl says, maybe, yes, on Monday and continues to tell her story. I feel my deep sorrow for her, for this human condition, for the suffering of millions.
I extend my hand. She grabs it in a strong hold not caring about the two dollars between our skins. She looks into my eyes and through the fog of her pain and confusion, we meet. We are there.
I notice tears are streaming down my face, unstoppable. The other girl to my right looks a little surprised. My heart is soft now, release of the pent up tightness. I feel incredible gratitude towards the Inuit woman for what she is giving me, right here and now. She looks serenely into my eyes and says “Pray for me” and blows me a kiss. I will.
I have to go, I am late. I do not know the end of this story, but as I walk away the other woman is coming closer to the Inuit girl and she too is extending her hand.
Veronica Pelicaric is the Pace e Bene Coordinator of International Programs. She lives in Montreal.