My good friend Sara P. told me a story I have never forgotten. During an earthquake relief mission in Guatemala, she sat in a tiny, cramped shelter with a woman who had lost everything. Sara, having little on hand in the moment, opened her purse, found a lipstick, and gave it to the woman, whose response was a smile as bright as the sun. The lipstick might as well have been gold. What the woman needed most in the wake of tremendous loss was to feel human.
Last evening, Shirley Raines earned CNN’s Hero of the Year Award for her tireless efforts with the people on LA’s Skid Row. Her mission started simply, with free haircuts and makeup. Ms. Raines understood the importance of feeling human.
This from CNN:
Raines and her non-profit Beauty 2 the Streetz have been a mainstay on Skid Row for the past six years, providing food, clothing, and hair and makeup services to thousands of people.
Every week, Raines and her team of volunteers set up shop and transform part of Skid Row — home to one of the nation’s largest concentrations of homeless people — into an outdoor beauty salon.
She pushed forward:
. . . Raines’ efforts evolved into a full-scale operation, with music playing and lines forming around the block, she [now provides] more supplies and essentials: rape whistles, tents, sleeping bags, hygiene items — and [has] teamed up with local health officials to offer more services.
Surrounded by crises and corruption, it’s important for us to remember there are people who have not given up, who have the courage not to be discouraged.
This week we are stunned by devastation across Kentucky and Arkansas, by the photos and stories coming from communities shredded by tornadoes.
No, makeup and haircuts won’t reconstruct lives, but I take comfort knowing the Saras and Shirleys of this world are there helping people feel seen, feel human.
I’m not! See what I mean in Necessary Madness’s “Cocooned”
A woman on Instagram in the U.S. wrote she was feeling homesick. All she’d done is sit down at a café on the same block where she lived.
I’m planning a trip south in April but struggle to imagine myself at the train station, much less inside a train. It’s been five months since I’ve been outside Coimbra’s city limits. Weeks since I’ve been at a café, months since being inside one. I suggested in my last post that we might be subject to a new form of agoraphobia. Most of us American ex-pats came here planning extensive European travel, but with much of the continent either still shut down or going back under lockdown, we are asking ourselves when – even if – we will be up to facing the planes and trains and hotels of Rome or London or Prague.
It’s been fifteen months since I’ve seen my sons, but, unless there’s an emergency, I won’t go until I have a vaccine. At the same time, I’m very aware of how out of practice I am wrestling international airport crowds, layovers, cramped cabins.
My ancestors made the dangerous ocean crossing from the Netherlands in the 17- and 1800’s. Once here, they stayed put in their small farming communities. Growing up among them, I knew many of my aunts and uncles and grandparents and cousins had never been much more than a hundred miles from the towns of their birth. One aunt didn’t ride an escalator until she was in her 50’s. Living in New York State, they’d never been to New York City. Still haven’t.
I’m far more sympathetic after this last year of confinement. All that space out there. All those people. All that’s unknown. Beyond the state line? The town line? What does it matter? We have everything we need right here, and all we can deal with. Births, deaths, illnesses, joy, marriages, meals, money, laugher. I get it. I understand. I’m sorry I ever thought them silly. Or cowardly.
A part of me is exhausted striving to be upbeat while wondering if and when everything will be okay. The waiting, the worry, the setbacks. Covid coming far too close to my family. Watching the numbers rise and fall and rise again. Lockdown after lockdown. At the moment, we can’t travel between towns. We are, however, happy that coffee and juice and small items are, as of last week, “venda no postigo” – literally sold through a peephole, meaning by way of small windows in shop fronts.
I am very aware my situation is privileged compared to that of so many others. I’ve spent the pandemic inside the ease and safety of a cocoon, with a solid safety net of friends. We have all longed for reopening, but the truth is, the closer it gets, the more disconcerting the day the cocoon can be unwrapped. How many of us will choose not to?
Hello all! After a long hiatus, I’m back to Necessary Madness. Kindly check out my new post. Hope you are all safe and well.
It’s our addiction. No, not Portuguese wine or port or fancy liquors. Hand sanitizer. Over the past year, I have become a connoisseur. Ask me anything. I can tell you where to find any kind you long for. I can explain the pros and cons of the sticky gels, the watery concoctions, the lavender-scented, ammonia-scented, scented-to-hide-the-scent scented. Even when we’re not looking, it’s looking at us via spritz bottles, spray bottles, and foot-pedalled dispensers. Store employees, when stores are open, greet you as greeters used to with perfume samples at Bonwit’s and Macy’s. Going in, they beg, desinfeta, por favor. Coming out, they beg, desinfeta, por favor. Dose after dose after dose. And then there are the containers we carry in our backpacks and pockets. Long after the pandemic is over, I will look for the free bottles of alcohol that now reside in the doorways of stores and restaurants and even buses, while patting my pockets for my own supply. I’ll never be free from the warm, cool, sticky, thick, watery, sweet, medicinal, disgusting stuff. Will you?
Likewise, masks. Now that we know more than we ever knew there was to know about the aerosolization of speech, spit, and snot, and know in visual, computerized detail, exactly how far the droplets of our shouts and whispers and songs travel under what circumstances – light wind, no wind, hurricanes, air conditioning – who among us will breathe in unmasked air? Vaccines are wonderful, but how about a liquid of another sort, a tinted chemical we can spritz into our personal space to judge the quality and quantity of the viral loads that surround us? Who’s working on that? There should be a prize.
Count me among the new breed of agoraphobics. Touch a menu? Touch coins? Borrow a pen? Join a crowd on an elevator? Not a chance. How are you?