Funny the World...


May 26, 2000

Back to Exercises in Futility. After a two week absence, I returned to the homeless shelter today. I really don’t know why I bother. I go there in the vain hope that I’m doing something positive. In truth, I just reinvent the wheel each week and leave knowing that nothing whatsoever got accomplished.

It was another of Debbie’s "projects." Editing the Volunteer Handbook. I put this book together several months back. The Board has finally managed to go through it and make comments. Actually there are few corrections to be made, but what seems to have happened is that the document just doesn’t exist on the hard drive. Debbie insists it’s on one computer, but it wasn’t there; I knew I’d typed it on the other computer. I finally managed to get to that computer (that’s the one that’s piled high with stacks of papers and has stacks and stacks of papers underneath the desk, leaving the typist no leg room). Lord knows where the document is there either. Each time I handle a document or set of documents, I try to leave it logically named, logically filed. Every time I come back, someone has messed with it and it can’t be found. I actually spent all morning just looking for the various parts of the document and moving them all into one file called "Volunteer Handbook." When I ran out of "found" documents, I started retyping...while Debbie talked to me nonstop.

I lose my calm at the Shelter. It’s about the only place where the frustrations of life really get to me.

However, other than work, it was an interesting day. First, I met John. John reminds me that alcohol is the great leveler. He’s a tall, dignified man who looks and sounds like Roddy McDowell and who holds a Ph.D. and was a professor before he succumbed to the disease of alcoholism. He’s been homeless for some time, but has now been sober several weeks, has cleaned up his act, and today we worked together installing new software on the computer. His housemates include people who are trying to find a way to study for the GED so they can get their high school diplomas.

We also had the dubious "pleasure" of a kid who was perhaps 6 or 7 years old. His mother had come in to meet with her case manager. The kid, who has ADD, spied the pit bull who belongs to one of the residents. The dog is generally a well mannered dog and he is always tied up on the far side of the house where nobody can get to him. But the kid was determined to run at the dog. His mother, who has a bad leg and walks with a cane called the kid back, but he just kicked her in the leg and ran away. Debbie, who is tall and rather imposing, blocked his way to the dog and they managed to get him in the office, where he screamed at the top of his lungs, shouting how much he hated Debbie and screaming that he just wanted to go to the dog.

After the kid left, I started on the volunteer handbook. I figure The Shelter is my chance to work through some bad karma from a former life.

When I came home, I received a package from It was a book called "Signals," by Joel Rothschild. I heard about this book from Steve two days ago, because the author had called him and the two of them are supposed to meet tomorrow, if it works out for their schedules. I started reading the book and was sobbing by page 3. It’s the story of communication after death and brings a message of hope to people who have lost loved ones. I’ve read a lot of life-after-death books and it’s difficult to put into words how this book (which I finished at one sitting) affected me. It’s not a profoundly life-altering experience. It’s more a calm nodding-the-head recognition of the familiar.

I came to truly believe in life after death when Gilbert died in 1986. Many of the things which Rothschild experienced after the death of his best friend Albert are things which I also felt. It’s not so much anything that feels odd or amazing or miraculous. Over the years since Gilbert’s death, and later following our sons' deaths, it’s just become what "is." People who have experienced communication with loved ones who died will understand what I mean. It’s not so much a bolt of lightning or a vision of the loved one. It’s more a calm quiet that comes into your soul in a way that is significant. It is coincidences that might be coincidences, or might not be. It’s a peace that it’s difficult to explain. Mostly it’s a strong sense that life is worth living, that each day is important, that we are here to learn lessons, that the love of others is more important than anything, and that death is not the end. Rothschild expresses it so beautifully in this book and when I finished, I just had a feeling that I had discovered a soulmate.

I hope I remember all those lessons next week when it’s my turn for next week’s Exercise in Futility.

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created 5/26/00 by Bev Sykes