Thru my child’s eyes: Empty chairs full of meaning
When winter hits, ten homeless women spend the night at a synagogue in my neighborhood. Shuttled there in the evening by a city service, these women receive a hot meal, a bed, a shower, breakfast and then return to the city system in East New York in the morning. One night this fall, my daughter (8 yo), son (5 yo) and I prepared dinner for this group. I know that poverty and homelessness scares them; I guess it scares all of us. I figured that bringing a meal and preparing the shelter for the women’s visit would be a safe way to approach the scariness.
When we arrived, my kids quickly busied themselves with table setting. And then we walked into the sleeping room which doubled as a preschool classroom by day. Other volunteers had already opened the cots, set out the linen and opened a folding chair for each guest. We’d done our job, I thought, I was ready to go. But my five year old asked “what’s the chair for?” And I stopped short. I explained that many of these women had no place to sit- literally. They were out all day, looking for shelter, looking for health care, looking for a safe life. And the folding chair was a special effort to offer them rest, not just a place of sleep.
By asking about the chair, my son took the experience to another level. I came to see how that empty chair characterized homelessness’ fatigue so profoundly, something that without the chair would have been very abstract. I am so grateful for the insight that comes through how my children see the world, the questions that they ask, and the challenge it offers me as I reach for meaningful answers.
I’d love to hear what have been some of your “empty chair” moments. How have the children in your lives helped you to see the reality around you differently and understand things more deeply? To see things beyond how you’ve become adjusted to relating to them?
Here’s to moving together as a community toward increasing awakeness and supporting the children in our lives to be fully awake as well.
With warm regards,