Front Line

The Front Lines; Still Relevant

I wrote this piece first on June 20, 2013

I Re-titled it: Still Relevant

The day I wrote this piece, describing a slice of the meeting the night before, a moment out of an hour of moments, not to say too much respecting confidentiality, trying to capture a sense of the life-saving nature of what we discuss when we convene on Thursday evenings. It was fresh, still is. Shalvah we call it, support for individuals struggling with substances, with mental health, with life. Courageous people, working hard.

On that Thursday I decided to start a journal based on the Shalvah evening session, something written to capture a bit of what we do on Thursday nights that has been so healing for so long. Shalvah means serenity and it started as support for individuals getting free of substance abuse. Rose Mass of blessed memory and myself started meeting in 1981. I write about everything, I thought, I ought to write about this too. 

I kept a journal of my prison experiences, I wrote about the other events of my life, I should write about the Shalvah recovery meeting we have been running in one form or another, almost continuously, since I came to this town in 1981. So I started to keep the journal, the first entry was that Thursday, June 20, 2013. 

A few days after this account, one of the leaders of our community passed away. He was one of the few in our community who helped Rose and myself get started. If he saw a need, his attitude was how are we going to do this, what I call the af tsu lokhes approach, a Yiddish phrase that has the sense of in spite of, with an attitude. It’s a useful expression without an exact equivalent in English, a sense of you think I can’t do that? I’m going to do it in spite of all obstacles and with more punch. Just because. I knew there was no af tsu lokhes attitude as I wrote this story. It had passed from leadership anyway. It was gone. 

I was attentive to the proximity of the urge to write these accounts with the passing of this man and that spirit of leadership. A week and a half later at his funeral I felt the need of such individuals then, feel it now, and what a loss to our community such a spirit is. What can I do? Be on the front lines and write about it. 

We push on, still convening a safe space for lives to pick themselves up, turn themselves around, help others. Still relevant.