Whenever I facilitate the 2-hour Stinking Thinking Hangouts at the homeless shelter, the individuals that come in are often not sure why they’re there, or what it’s going to be about. A few have come in because they’ve read something
on the flyer that has piqued their interest, a few have been encouraged to attend by the staff at the shelter, and others have come in for a variety of other reasons, including that it’s something different to do, rather than hanging out at the drop-in
And although every person brings with them something completely different in their circumstances, their thinking, and their state of mind in the moment, it’s almost guaranteed that most are experiencing some level of suffering,
often both physical and mental. As well, since it is a “non-intoxication” shelter, many are managing some withdrawal from drugs, and bumping into the painful busyness of their thinking that tends to be more loud and affecting when not numbed by
the drugs. It’s not uncommon for them to be a bit confused, and fidgety and restless. And it’s not uncommon for some to want to leave before the two hours are over.
And so I never know how any hangout is going to go. In some
hangouts we’re able to make a human connection and have some interesting conversation, with an opportunity for me to learn a bit about them, and sometimes an opportunity for me to share a little bit of what has been helpful for me, and sometimes I get
to hear some incredible wisdom. And in some other hangouts, not so much. Today was more in the “not so much” category, but still interesting and appreciated and amusing, just the same.
I had 3 people drop in today.
One was a woman who was a bit unsteady on her feet, a bit limited in her attention, a bit quiet and garbled with her speaking, but with some quick smiles glancing across her face and some life behind her eyes as we greeted and chatted.
The second was a man who appeared more clear headed and articulate, but was a bit more hidden in his posture and behind his eyes.
The third was a man who walked in all loud and imposing, wanting to know what was going on, then starting
a conversation with me which led to him sharing how he’d killed several people, and how not everyone believes it, but how everyone always gets hairs raised up on the back of their neck when they hear of it. He went on to tell me a few more things about
thinking and about God. He wasn’t too interested in hanging out with us, but he had a chance to say his piece, grab a few items from my basket of treats, and then left, saying “Thanks and have a nice day”. That happened at about 2 MINUTES
With my two participants left, I began to share a bit about what the hangout is about, and what they could expect, and asked if they had any initial questions or thoughts before we started. The response from both of them was limited
and reluctant, so it seemed to make sense to me to share a bit of my own story. Shortly after starting, the man advised he had to go. That was about 5 MINUTES in.
Then with the woman still left, I continued on with my story. At several
points she mentioned that what I was sharing is what happens to her. I didn’t quite understand what she said at first, but eventually got some sense of it. Not sure yet what to ask, I continued on for a few more minutes sharing my story, after which
she said something again. I didn’t understand it again, so I asked her to repeat it. She spoke again, and this time I think I got the words, but it didn’t immediately make sense to me, and then after a moment, the penny dropped. I realized she
was asking me if I was reading her mind.
I was telling her the story of how my thinking had affected me (how it worked), and since it is universal, and therefore what also happens with her own thinking, she thought I was reading her mind.
I smiled and laughed a bit, and said, “Oh, no, no. I can’t read your mind. What I’m sharing is just how everyone thinks.” We talked for just a bit after that, then she looked up at the clock, and said she had to go. That was 10 MINUTES
She got up on her feet, slowly gathered up her bags of belongings, and grabbed a few more treats to go. I asked her if she likes to read, and when she said yes, I gave her a copy of the Enlightened Gardener. She put it in one of her
bags and left.
After that, I just sat down and chuckled a bit to myself. I thought wow, 2 minutes, 5 minutes, and 10 minutes… that’s gotta be a record for people wanting to leave once I start talking. LOL!
As I mentioned before, I never know how any hangout is going to go… who will appear and what
will happen. But I quite often remember that I never have to worry, because I know I’m not in charge of any of that. I just get to show up, try not to be an idiot, show a little kindness, and see what happens. The rest is up to the universe.
Fortunately, on this beautiful, sunny, temperate day today, I got to leave a little early and enjoy the drive home with the windows open and the music playing. I wonder what next week’s hangout will bring?