Jun 22, 2020
By Mary Rufatto
As children, we believe that magic can make us invisible to the world. This allows us to disappear from chaos that is beyond our control, or simply to be alone and still. Solitude is essential for healing, creativity, soul searching, rest and rejuvenation. But when an unknown and life-consuming virus forces us into solitary life, devoid of all but essential contact, it's as if we enter into a prison with invisible bars. According to family therapist Virginia Sater, humans need four hugs a day for growth. Isolated from human touch, we often turn to old habits that can create on healthy outcomes. The craving for community with our pack can lead us to dangerous and unsafe behaviors. This aspect of SIP may be a successful deterrent to spreading the virus, but the hidden and devastating social repercussions get very little media attention. In this information age, we are still inhibited and loathe to talk about what happens to those who are homeless, addicts, alcoholics, in recovery or those affected by a myriad of mental health issues when communities and support systems shut down. Those who "have" are hanging on by a thread.
As the manager of several organic urban farms for a nonprofit organization that feeds our food-insecure neighbors for free, and employs homeless individuals, I can attest to the travesty that can occur when accountability ceases due to closures of the justice system, such as the probation department. For one of our most reliable and hardest-working employees, this situation began the unraveling of her meticulously constructed recovery program and contributed to her spiraling very rapidly into a black hole of despair, relapse, homelessness, arrest and a loss of faith and face.
Life was just beginning to look up for this young woman. She was unceasing in her determination to secure housing and start earning real money again. Working in our gardens helped her purchase a used car. Each time we worked together I saw her relax into a rhythm and joy that was pure and honest. Her excitement and tenderness when planting seeds was palpable. A day did not go by without her thanking me profusely for believing in her. She was GRATEFUL for meaningful work that occupied her hands and fed her soul. She was PROUD to grow organic food; excited by the prospect of our bountiful gardens feeding her homeless friends. She was DETERMINED to complete her program successfully this time, EXCITED to be seen as a productive member of our team. She became my friend, but I can no longer call to see if she is okay because I can no longer find her.
Every day I pray that when the SIP orders are lifted she will find her way back to a healthy lifestyle, and I will be able to text her a funny story or talk to her when I am upset. She is smart in ways that you and I will never be nor comprehend. She is strong and she is a survivor. If she reads this and recognizes our story, I want her to know that I'm still on her side and I am praying that she is safe and alive.
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