Reconciling the Holidays 2016
Whether one celebrates Christmas, Hanukkah or any other festive holiday, this time of year brings up emotions. As my father left his physical body on Christmas, it’s a particularly reflective time for me. Whether we are with family or friends exchanging gifts or having meals together, the holidays are meant to be a time for celebration.
As I am driving south on the 101 to work, I notice an increase in the amount of homeless living on the side of the freeway than four years ago, when my work required increased time spent driving to downtown Los Angeles. I see a makeshift toilet, battered and ripped tents & frayed blankets next to people’s “homes” and I can’t help but wonder what it must feel like to be living in the rain, during the holiday season, with no home.
We are shooting nights downtown and the pounding of the rain begins just as all the gear needs to start the move to the filming location from the base camp. I find the rain magical but can’t help but think of the people on the streets. In the morning after “wrap” has been called, when the sun has risen and I can wander alone, I hang my camera on my left shoulder, as I have been doing since I was 10 years old. I hang a Trader Joes bag filled with food on my right shoulder as I walk with my orange umbrella. I begin to walk the streets around San Pedro near 10th street, as I have to stay close to the location.
I meet Jeffrey who tells me “I’m doing the best I can” and “It is what it is” and manages a genuine smile. I offer him some food and he is so very grateful.
Next I stop to speak to Cheryl, a woman pushing a shopping cart down 11th Street. She tells me “my husband beat me up.” And she has lupus and cancer. When she shares with me that she was in a relationship where she was abused, I immediately open up and tell her my mother was too. “I’m doing my own thing” she says and asks me if I have any chocolate. “I knew someone would want chocolate” I think to myself and reaching into my bag, I find the chocolate bar I added to my stash and hand it to her.
I speak to Ernestine, who has four children: Tamisha, Latary, Laterrier, & Tomika. It’s challenging to understand everything she is saying but she thanks me for the food as well.
There is so much suffering in the world and I am pondering how to reconcile that some of us live in abundance with magic all around. Yet how do we remain grateful and happy, knowing people are in pain or even anguish? People right near by. People that I see sleeping on & walking down 7th Street as the van shuttles crew members from base camp to set.
It’s a corrosive attitude to think of the homeless as others. The only thing I can do at this very moment is to take action and hand out food to the different people I meet as I walk along the streets, as the rain is coming down heavy on all of us. “Feed each other” – Yogi Bhajan, master of Kundalini yoga and my spiritual teacher, taught us. There is a spiritual imperative in my belief system that says help others. So, that I do. When I’m home in bed later that evening, I feel blessed and content that I could help a few people today during my work day.