Four years with a derelict president, the pandemic, and now Russia’s invasion of Ukraine make it hard to get out of bed each day. If ever the cliché of carrying the world’s weight were true, it is now.
I’m grateful to have a bed, a roof over my head, a loving family, and relative safety. It’s impossible, however, to shed this grief and the daily worry of “what next?” as images of women and frightened children pepper the news. I feel hopeless and helpless in the face of a monster.
In late December, one of the unhoused women I serve showed me a weighty bead that rolled into her tent.
She had no idea how it got there and made it clear she didn’t let anyone inside her tent. She thought it might be a map of Russia since it sported a small red star, but on further examination, it seemed abstract. Most of all, she was worried that it might be a bad omen.
I don’t believe in omens or superstitions, but she does, and that’s what matters. I offered to hold on to it for her, and she seemed relieved. She warned me to be careful if anything terrible started happening to me.
I didn’t see her in the intervening weeks, and the bead remained in a drawer downtown. I eventually brought it home and created a charm from my collection of buttons and ephemera.
I made a small card to go with the charm and gave it to her when she returned.
Dear [ ],With affection, Alys
I turned the beautiful bead you found in your tent into a charm. It’s infused with affection and hope. You deserve a life off of the streets. Carry this with you as a reminder that our Lifted Spirits volunteers want the best for you.
The clear button and the leaf from my stash represent water and earth, and her bead represents the global community. I turned an object of fear into a thing of beauty and hope. I wish I could do the same for our weary world.
I’m carrying my own heavy burdens closer to home. The sadness is mine, but the circumstances are not mine to share. Instead, I have a sorrow deep in my chest, reflecting it outward through my weary eyes. It invades my sleep.
I long for peace.