Category: downtown girls


11/26/15 | by Shareen [mail] | Categories: downtown girls

Sometimes, when I turn out the lights, at the end of the day, I know immediately my smallness and my one-ness.
I see my self in my bed, in this vast room, in this great city, in this state and country and universe and know the silence and simplicity of this pin pointed and singular life.
I rarely, but do sometimes, think on how it is that I should be alone. I think, in all this world would it be so difficult for God to find me another, to here, or there, make me one of two.
Because I know I am loved, and because I know that the divine is not separated from my soul, I wonder then what it is this classroom in which I am sitting. The faithful, and I am one, know that there is no bad luck, nor is there punishment, or limitation. We know that there is only love. Perhaps then I am only living on the edge of God’s witness and patience.
Is it all just there, beyond our reach, our fathoming, requiring only that we step in? Is He standing by, arms crossed, broad warm smile, staring hard at us adoringly and wondering at our timidity?
Does He sit back with knowingness that it matters not that our understanding be today, or tomorrow? Does He know already that we will eventually fall gently forward into his palm, distracted at being fed, allowing His hand finally its fullness upon our grateful backs.


11/26/15 | by Shareen [mail] | Categories: downtown girls

After Paris

November 2015

When I clean my house I always start in exactly one corner.

Taking on the 6 rooms of the small bungalow at once is too much for me.

I do remember one day when I dusted in one room and swept in another, tidied here and straightened there, and back round again and again. For the most part, it worked, but I felt dizzy from it and scattered. If the phone had rung while I spun these cleaning plates, I certainly would have dropped the whole lot.

When things are in disarray it is best to start in one corner, and work one’s way out, bit by bit.

The world is a mess. If you feel off or down or confused, slightly insecure, flashing anxiety, it is because though your room may be tidy, what surrounds it is in forms of upset ranging from disorder to disaster. The air that touches us is filled with the echo of grief.

As you begin your day today, as you venture out into your immediate world, pick one corner and make it better.

In my church, in churches around the country, near the end of the service the pastor will ask you to ‘pass the peace’. Though you may feel sometimes uncomfortable you will turn behind you, then turn again to reach out in front, and either take a hand, or in my case, embrace a stranger with a hug, and say, “peace be with you” .

At the Presbyterian Church on Fifth avenue, standing beside me was Steve. He was grizzled and big and sweaty. His hands were swollen and cracked. He stood and kneeled and stood again and sat beside me sharing in the service. A stranger holding a respectful distance and silence. But at “pass the peace”, when I took him into my arms, he became mine, a friend, a fellow, a journeyman along my way. “ Peace be with you” I said near his ear. “ Peace be with you.” He said into my hair, and as I pulled away from him, I looked into his eyes, mine then filled with joy at having felt his heart beat. I beamed at him, then leaning in to whisper I said, “ It’s the best part, isn’t it? “ And he smiled too. “ It is. “ he said. And we smiled into each other with shyness and knowing and gratitude. My heart lifted and filled with singing.

Isn’t it sometimes just unbearable sweetness to feel your love penetrate another and receive that gratitude returned?

Pass the peace. Do it everywhere you go today.

Let us begin in our small corner. Hand out a dollar, reach out a hand, deliver a kind word and bit by bit let us make a difference.

I dream of a day when we all agree that at a certain hour on a certain day, all over the world, at once, we will turn to whom ever is standing beside us and say, “Peace be with you.”


09/09/15 | by Shareen [mail] | Categories: downtown girls

“Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity.” Simone Weil

I made it to Venice earlier than I expected. The roads were open and I drove easily from the east end of Orange County to Venice. It was the kind of drive that makes one feel lucky and free. The radio on, the windows down, moving fast, I felt the exchange of mind to moment. ‘ The sky is open and clear, the air is cooler here, this patch of freeway looks like the beach. The colors of the Westside line up to the colors of sea side.’ My thoughts opened up. I felt my energy shift into low gear as I arrived.

It is the last Monday of the month. At 6 I will meet a team of volunteers from my church to do the laundry for those without homes. We meet at the Rose Bud Laundromat in Venice. We commune with and support our ‘homeless friends” to launder their clothing, sleeping bags, blankets.

My early arrival allowed me time to go to the Starbucks on Main Street. I consider a half hour with the paper or a book in Starbucks a luxury. I grabbed the NY Times and a coffee and took to an armchair eagerly.

On the front page an obit of one of humanities great witnesses. A brilliant doctor and author has died and the most gifted of book critics Michiko Kakutani has written a loving and knowing tribute. Oliver Sachs has taken his place behind the camera. Heaven was not so far away for this humanist, curious about and honoring of all of life. Dr. Sachs held an especially loving fascination with all those living at the fringe of sanity. I imagined that he might have pondered if they perhaps live in the only sanity, or if their reality holds gifts, answers, that those of us tethered by the balance of our chemistry cannot know.

As I read, a man approached me. He extended some crumbled dollars forward in what was his open and dark palm. He asked me for a cup of coffee. Yes, this is Starbucks and the latte he hoped for would not be purchased for three dollars. ” Sure", I said, “Order what ever you want. I got it.” And I did get it for him and going back to my paper, and my seat, I wanted three things. I wanted that he would get his coffee and leave me alone to read. I wanted that no one around me would think me wonderful for buying a man a cup of coffee, and I wanted that he not over thank me, or thank me at all. Mostly, I wanted to read again undisturbed.

In NY, the day before, I ducked into a church for a service. The message concerned the equality in the exchange of giving and receiving. There is no shame in need and no pride in giving. Both the giver and the receiver are employed by God as recipients of His good. ” All gifts come from Him” said the priest. He was not an inspired man but I took this with me as refreshed knowledge. “What is mine is His". Recalling this, I got up again, and as the man waited for his latte, I slid a 20 into his palm. I smiled into his eyes and said something like, ” You might want something to eat.”

Again, back to my paper hoping no one saw me. Again, my hope of invisibility and to be undisturbed. As I read, I felt this man come near again, and I peered up at him. I gave him only the tops of my eyes, my nose still pointing downward to the paper. I am reading my posture said. I am reading and you are interrupting me but I will glance up with patience for a moment, ” yes.” I smiled.

He was smiling and holding his coffee and he was gleefully mid sentence. From him I heard that the weather was better these days and it was less hot. The weekend had been tough for him but today was a better day, and I nodded in agreement. Without a word returned, I nodded, Yes, Yes, and I offered one small final nod of my head to punctuate that this is the end of our conversation. I would love to finish this article.

I looked back down to Dr. Sach’s obit to read words written like “humanist, observer of life, aware of the great connectivity of all things, compassionate.."…. and my periphery grew empty as the man drifted away. In the moment of his disappearance I knew that what I gave him was not really what he wanted.

My heart to write this breaks with shame. A healthy shame. A shame filled with my own self love and forgiveness but a shame filled with loss. Little tears of understanding drop and I know you share them. We know this, all. He wanted, she wants, they need, my mom in her bed falling asleep, her small hand in mine, this man with the open hand, ….. my seamstresses, my clients, …. all, us, me….. to be seen… to be heard, to be made alive and worthy of our reality, our fullness, purely by our attention. To be gifted presence. Ah, God. it is hard to be generous in this way for us and I say us because it is the struggle of this modern life.

He wanted to talk to me. He wanted to share his experience and hold his cup there at the party with me as his hostess. I would give anything right now to return to him and say, “Yes, yes, doesn’t the air just kiss the skin so perfectly today. I felt it too. I feel it too. Hi, tell me who you are. What brings you here, my friend?”

I have only my tears to give him this morning.

I gathered my unread paper and drove to the laundry and gave away what I had reserved. I see many of the same faces on these Mondays but this month I met and came to know Charlie, and Rey, and Leo my friend with skin like ink who comes from New Orleans, and lived with his Grandmother there. His mother came to LA with his brother when he was 6 and finally at 14 he followed her here. I listened as he told me of jail and of trying to get work and the mission down the street where he waits on line to shower and how by noon it feels too late to look for work. I told him, “You are in such struggle, but you have such light. You have joy. I see it in you.” And he said, ” Yes, I do, God is good.", and without punctuation he added, ” At night, I cry.” “At night you cry.” I repeated into his eyes. ” Yes. At night I cry, but I have hope.” And my friend Charlie, who told me of his stroke and that he knows his feet will recover their nerves so that he may walk more easily, and Rey who grew up in a town of millionaires, Roslyn, NY, minutes from my home town on the north shore of Long Island. He is about the age of my brother. I know well the shirts he used to wear. No washing of his stained T-shirt will fully restore Rey, but perhaps my smiling into his eyes returned to him some pride. Perhaps.

On my drive to the Rose Bud I had thought to talk to Jimmy my pastor about ministering. Divinity school. I have thought on this for over a year. In my struggle with what may be an undeniable calling, I have accused myself of a desire for escape. Perhaps I am looking to run away from the pain of my life. Perhaps I am looking to fill spaces that I seem unable to fill. And I have to laugh now as I see that to minister is to look deeply into the pain of all of life. Perhaps to minister is to walk in the truth that there is only one pain, as there is only one love. “I cry at night too”, I should have said. “ I cry at night too. When you cry tonight, know that I am there crying with you. God is good. There is hope. I am with you and you are with me.”

Like this, in God, we redeem and are redeemed.


01/16/15 | by Shareen [mail] | Categories: downtown girls

The bar in Cambridge,
blues and greens
as preppies like
But he was Portuguese
Sexy man
Who taught me about freedom
We shared a love of the truth
His Pulitzer
My business
Our hearts lived
Apart and at a great
And comfortable

And his first kiss on
When he argued
For his limitations
Daring me to love
Him anyway
Nine years later,
three cats
and laughter
I’d dared
And lost
The argument.
Trumps all

And the intense stare
across the theatre
Eyes locked
A slow, understated
I thought was sexy
Only to find
he was just depressed
The black jaguar
The penthouse
And me
Beside sadness

And how I lost
three years there
which weren’t as fun
as three years lost
in a trailer park
along side him
in the pick up
Marlboro reds
and flamingoes.
Real, sexy years of tequila
And jerkey, Montana and shooting ranges
He had a glock
Under his pillow
We’d have been ok anywhere

And then there was Yale
And the Olympics
And shells on the Thames
And the river Charles
A green Porsche
and the secret society
His book
My glamorous job
Endless betrayals
his with others
by absentia

And he had a lisp
and was a valet
and loved me like
No other and
I wanted to make him
my Pygmalion
and I could have
If only
We hadn’t lost a child

And one I distrusted
hypnotized me
And another
dying to love me
left me dying to be free.
And one I adore
Is out of reach.

Finally, I look
Back to my father
And wonder why,
he hurt me so.
No sympathy requested
No complaint here stated.

As I lay dying
I read the swords
(Like on the tarot card)
And finally,
The last
So what.

I saw him
The other night
in a golden orb
His face shone
With a gentle pride
At me.

“I did it
all because
I loved you
And your
triumph is
My job
well done.”

I may be late
To the library,
to the party
To discover
I may be late
to You tube
And behind
In the polls
But I am not
surrendered in pain
I am triumphant with

I am “it”

And “no"is my best
And “yes” is its great cousin

How might I
Find my man
Until I know
The man in me?
She who asserts
And discerns,
Establishes boundaries
Is on her side
And behalf.
She who fights for her best
And takes no prisoners.
She who knows
Her worth
And protects it
With ferocity
She who would be him
if he were to arrive as me


01/15/15 | by Shareen [mail] | Categories: downtown girls

The most
of calls to
tenderly rain
touches the spirit
with the softest of
nature’s dance

and in the white
tucked warmly
the wing
of a swan,
Eyes yet closed
against the day

I heard
I listened

Kissing lightly tree branches
Whispering through
Falling leaves,
To heaven

a voice
Light and clean

I held
My breath
To receive
Her message

“in the arms of…..”

The note
Was carried
As a cry
Broken hearted

I held
The door.

“an angel,
may you find……….”

and again a caress
Tumbling the
Length of
A shattered body,
A hand
made of
sharing, taking
the suffering of her

“some comfort here.”

The comfort of
angels is here.

on another
blessed day

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