The other night Alex told me that he would describe me as a “martyr”—a term I don’t like very much, but I can see how he can characterize me as such. Lone Heron says that if I get $100, I’ll spend it on the kids before I spend it on me. That’s true I guess, though it is the result of low income and a stubborn dedication to our mission more than to any self-sacrificing instinct. I like creature comforts as much as the next guy. At this stage of my life, though, I just don’t need much for myself. I get more selfish satisfaction from attending to the needs of others.
I asked Alex if that makes me a rube in his eyes, and he gave me a noncommital answer that could very well have been evasive. So I don’t know what Alex really thinks of me. But in a way, I really don’t care. Actions speak louder than words, and Alex is still here. I don’t need any expressions of touchy-feely emotion to keep myself motivated to keep soldiering on.
Anyway, touchy-feely is not a part of his repertoire (nor has it been for his whole life). The normal distance with which he interacts with other human beings has no doubt been intensified by growing up in prison where everyone is on the take. Alex’s life experiences have taught him that trusting other people is truly one of the most dangerous things you can do. He has responded to this conclusion by constructing a rigid set of boundaries around himself that you dare not transgress.
When he first arrived on the train, I gave him a hug of greeting and immediately knew that I had done the wrong thing. The other day I gave him a pat on the shoulder as I passed by, and he told me that he doesn’t like being touched in any way. So I’ve been told in no uncertain terms.
This is fine with me. Putting the needs of others ahead of one’s own needs (or what you regard as normative) is a fundamental aspect to spiritual hospitality, basic to the vision of what Estrella Vista should be about. Every new resident here will have his or her unique boundaries. Respecting the boundaries of others will make Estrella Vista a safe place for anyone to be.
Groove of the Day