An Invite To Welcome Uncomfortable Situations
Yesterday I returned from my fourth trip to San Francisco in a year. I've been completing a Mindfulness Teacher Training through The Mindfulness Institute and this was my final trip for the training. The training was perfect. The teachers were brilliant, yet accessible. My peers in the training were inspirational and supportive. The content was thorough and detailed. We were able to really gain a complete body of knowledge surrounding the history of Mindfulness, while continually practicing the reason we were there - actually teaching the content and supporting our students. But this blog post isn't about my love for Mindfulness, which if you've been following me is evident. It's about the benefit in life to regularly putting ourselves in slightly uncomfortable situations.
It's been a pleasure to spend so much time in downtown San Francisco among the wonderful restaurants, beautiful houses, parks and flowers, and the diversity that comes with a great city, such as San Fran. Throughout this blog post you can see some of the pictures from my lunch time wanderings around the Hayes Valley and Mission areas of town. I'm a happy person when I get to wander a hilly city by foot.
But, by spending time in the same area of a town in May, August/September, January, and April within a one year time period one is not only faced with the positives, but also the challenges.
For example, it's hard to believe what you hear about foggy San Francisco, as we've only seen sun and beautiful weather. But that also reminds one of the drought. I had multiple waitresses tell us this time they no longer serve water without a request, nor do they give refills on water without a request. How does that affect the rest of the nation? Did you know that California grows 1/3 of our vegetables and 2/3 of our fruits and nuts? That doesn't even touch on the dairy and other food industries. Did you know it takes 4.9 gallons of water to grow each individual walnut and 1.1 gallons of water to grow each individual almond? And, you thought walnuts were already expensive!
Also, among the flowers; colorful murals and art; and pour over coffee, ice cream made while you wait, and fresh pressed juice shops; one is face to face with an amazing amount of homelessness, mental health, and filth. The need to walk always looking down if you don't want to step in feces or trip over someone is very real. It's uncomfortable, but a good practice to wrestle with how to show someone kindness or acknowledge another human's existence while still thinking about ones safety, as someone with mental illness randomly yells at the space around them or intercepts you asking for money.
After my time in this city, I haven't figured out the answer. I don't know if there is any right way to deal with these inconveniences in life, but I do think it's important to take the time to grapple with them and not ignore their reality. While they are more noticeable in many large cities, there are less fortunate people in all communities. Missoula has a large homeless population and I'm proud to live in a town that has open conversations about this issue and is trying hard to find some answers about how to best support this group within our city.
I would argue that most of the war, hatred, and current strife in our world is due to people who forget they are connected to everyone else. We are all human. They separate themselves and decide they are different from someone else because of color, religion, background, and most often just plane luck of circumstances. If each and every person remembered the following things:
- I am human, and the person on the sidewalk is human;
- The person on the sidewalk has parents and people that love them just like I do;
- That person may have made poor choices in life, but the reality is that most of us, if we are honest, have made poor choices at some point in our life and circumstances could be different;
- Some people choose to be there and some are there because the beds at the shelter are full; or they don't fit within the rules the shelters and services have; or their illnesses weren't identified early enough; or any variety of reasons that boil down to our society is failing them.
Perhaps if we each remembered these things, then we could begin to have real conversations about treating all human beings, no matter their circumstances, with kindness and understanding. I invite you to become a part of this conversation in your community or at the very least, when you walk by someone that makes you cringe, think to yourself, "May that person be happy and healthy." If nothing else, the one thing we can do is begin to silently work on our own prejudices and assumptions.