Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Meeting Jill Scott

Taking someone to rehab is a drag.

Well, I didn't really take her to rehab. I took her to a place where intake can be done and then she'd be taken to a program. It's a scary thing. I had some flashbacks myself from when I sat in that small room years ago, fresh out of the emergency room after I'd swallowed a handful of benadryl tablets on a day my anger blazed within and nearly destroyed me. But today wasn't about me. It was about her. See, I'd been in too many horrible places to be too afraid. The song Adoramus te Domine (Jesus we adore You) rang in my soul. God was more imporant than food still. I had a little joy to work with.

The people were a sad lot. A young white woman, blackened eye, ligiture marks on her neck where she'd been strangled. Poor thing. Fragile as burned paper.

A beautiful black woman, cautiously eating apple sauce, sitting to herself. Quiet. Looking out of place. Like she belonged in a classroom teaching school.

Two younger black women huddled together like they were the best of girlfriends, as if their pairing would guard them against the terrors lurking within and without.

Two bored, young, black male orderlies. An older black woman doing intake.

The woman I'd brought in and I sat down, and the others ambled around, going in and out of the building for a smoke or a bit of air. She and I read the latest people. We clucked about poor Anna Nicole Smith, God rest her soul. That's when the trouble began. The police and EMTs bring the young white guy in on a stretcher and he's that strange blend of drugged docility barely containing rage. He's in four point restraints. He's in a hospital gown.

I don't know what has happened to bring any of these sad souls here except for the one I've brought. I am hurting for all of them. I try not to look at them full on, though my writer curiousity often gets the best of me. A tall, cappucino colored woman bears a striking resemblence to the rhythm and blues singer Jill Scott. I love Jill. I think she has to chops to be our newest Billie Holiday. And oddly, this woman, walking around, all hard and angry black woman bravado, every now and then she lets out the refrain of a John Legend song, Ordinary People.

"Take it sloooow," she sings. And then as if some inner censor forbids any more, she stops.

One of the orderlies, a stocky light-skinned man lets the White man out of his restraints. They take him over to intake to be assessed first, even though the woman I brought in came before him. Something about four point restraints is compelling, I suppose.

Just when I'm discovering the bevy of men claiming to be Anna Nicole's baby's daddy, I hear the orderly get loud. They are behind me so I didn't see what happened, but the next thing I know, a sucker punch is thrown. This gives way to some serious pimp slapping and a drugged out confused and partially naked and mostly exposed kid was no match for the orderly who in street language, "opened up a can." The black intake woman had to hustle us all to the other side of the room, not that it took much effort. The beat up White girl started crying profusely, and the singing Jill Scott clone started punching the White guy, too! It was utter chaos.

They locked the doors and none of us, including me, could leave. I guess I don't have to tell you who got put back in restraints. The beat up white girl looked so scared that I went to comfort her. I held her in my arms and let her cry and told her that she wouldn't walk though this alone. God was with her. And she was going to come out on the other side alright. I really believed she would. And I think I was there to tell her so.

I asked the intake woman once the dust settled if I could pray with anyone who wanted it. She said, "Start with me! I just got one more boy at home. I hate this job. Stuff like this..."

We prayed.

And then I asked if anyone else wanted me to pray with them. They all looked at me like I'd asked if anyone wanted to do Riverdance in the middle of the room. In fact, I think the Riverdance may have gotten a taker. But the singer challenged me. Got mad that I'd asked people to pray. "Who are you?" She bellowed.

"Nobody." I said, which was pretty much true. I didn't come sporting any labels. I didn't come to "minister" to them. "I just wanted to know if anybody else wanted to pray. I've been here before. I know how it is to be here."

"It's not safe. You need to pray for yourself."

"I do pray for myself, " I said. "But I'm here if anyone else needs me."

"You can't be praying in a place like this," she said again. "It ain't safe."

"You can pray in hell, " I said. And God knows I have.

But she was right, wasn't she. Praying isn't safe! Jesus died while He was praying. Praying just might change EVERYTHING, and no, that ain't safe.

The woman I was with nudged me. The singer was a lot bigger than me, and the person I was with thought she was going to open up a can. But unfortunately, an unexpected benefit of being with demon lover man was that I learned to take a punch. You gotta really bring it to kill me. Oh, yes. The old desire for self-preservation reared up, but I could tell the singer needed me to be Jesus. And even if she beat my behind I was going to count myself a martyr loving her.

It took a lot of time for things to get back to normal. We were all still locked in and restless. The White guy was screaming that all of us were niggers. The orderly had returned as if administering smack downs was all in a day's work, and the Jill Scott Clone kept egging me on.

A litte comment here. A little one there. She was begging for my attention. She expected me to fear her. This woman was every girl bully I've ever known, and yes, I'd just seen her fearlessly punching a man. I was afraid of her. But it ain't courage if you ain't scared, that's what an old wise woman told me. When the woman I took in finally went to the desk for intake I went over to the window right by her. I could tell I surprised her. Heck, I surprised myself.

I peered out the window. "The days are getting longer. I don't know about you, but I can't wait for Spring."

She didn't say anything, and I sat beside her. Looked at her as if my eyes were asking if we could talk. I had to remember which one of us brought Jesus with her. Which one of us had the real power here. Mostly, I had to remember which one of us was really scared, and which one had the love, and only by God's grace, to dole out.

"What you do bad?" she asked me.

"I took a bunch of pills."

"Oh. You a suicide." She said it LOUD, and was surprised when I didn't flinch. See, I wasn't a suicide. I was a suicide attempt survivor, three times over. She'd have to dig deeper than that to shame me.

"Yeah." I said, even though I was so alive and talking to her. "But I've done a lot of bad things."

"Why you do that to yo' self?"

"Sad. Crazy. Hurting." I shrugged. "Hey. Do you know you bear a striking resemblence to Jill Scott."

"I am Jill Scott, " she said, a wicked little smile creeping across her lips.

"I knew it!" I teased. "Can you sing?"

And she went back to, "Take it slooooooow." It was not bad. If whatever deviled her let her loose long enough, she might just have a lovely voice.

"Nice!" I say.

We chit chat, Jill Scott and I, and since she likes John Legend so much I ask her if she's heard his newest CD. It's better than the first. I tell her so. I watch this hard, angry, challenging woman soften the longer we talk.

Love goes a long way. And there is no fear in love. I truly believe, that even for that short time of pushing back my plate, praying all those prayers, saying, "God, I'm a mess, but I'm going to let you be more important than food just because I need you so badly..." I think keeping lent gave a little boost to my courage, and I took a chance on love with her that maybe a few days ago I wouldn't have been able to do, full of myself and whatever I wanted to stuff down my mouth with no attention, no mindfulness, no godliness, and no love, not even for myself.

No credit on my part. I'm the worst faster ever. I'm just telling a story. But it makes me wonder.

Now let me tell you a miracle. They weren't able to take the person I'd brought in. The fight had thrown everything off balance, all except a few graces God wanted to bestow. As I got up and prepared to leave I said, "I'll see you later, Jill."

She nodded, her expression like stone, her mask of toughness firmly in place. "Aw 'ight. Love y'all," she said.

Love y'all????

I just smiled at her. Waved. Shook my head marvelling at God as I left.

And that was that.


bobbie said...

diva to the divas - whitney, jill scott - woman, you got a mantle on those shoulders!

ragamuffin diva said...

I dunno about that, bobbie. And this morning remembering her...

I wish I'd asked her real name. She'll go on my prayer list as, "the woman who looks like Jill Scott."

Anonymous said...

It doesn't matter, what her real name is, what matters is your willingness to give of yourself to lighten her load. You could have been like everyone else in the room, too involved with there own pain to be concerned with someone else. Like most of us, you don't realize just how much your openness is a blessing to others.

Katy McKenna said...

Beautiful, Raga. I took my poor drug-addicted Mama to Western Missouri Mental Health once, not knowing that they only admitted people who were homicidal or suicidal. We both felt so lucky to have lived through the experience. She kind of snapped out of it for a little while after that. They stuck us in a little room to wait for an intake person, and we could hear patients shrieking from all around.

I did have to get her admitted to a geri psych unit for 11 days to detox after that. It's a good thing to be on a fast when you're hanging around there, too.

I love you, lady. God is more important, and others see that in your life. Thank you.

Katy McKenna www.fallible.com

Joni said...

Your post moved me beyond what I can express here. It brought back memories, too, of being at a psych ward in Detroit several years ago...the pain, the disillusionment, the suffering, the hunger for love...I saw all that and more in the eyes of those patients. It was a hard season of ministry, but it gave me a renewed sense of compassion.

Stepping outside yourself is an incredible means of being Jesus. You may never know what happens to "Jill"...but you will always know you were obedient.

Yep, Lent does some mighty incredible things in us and through us, dear sister!

Amy A. said...

Wow. Amazing.

Sarah said...

Just another of the reasons I love you, Mair.

Battle Maiden said...

Oh the privilege of partnering with God - I LOVE your obedience...holy boldness!! I do feel that your obedience in observing Lent strengthens your spirit and enables His sweetness and power to flow through you (us) so much better. (Reading Deuteronomy 11 & 12 today - WOW - obedience is KEY to greater blessings for sure!)

You are so full of His sweet fragrance - I read and read and read your stories and my spirit is edified and encouraged. Sharing of your weaknesses, victories, screwups and life experiences gives me courage & hope.

Thank you sweet friend that I'll meet someday for sure...I love how Jesus shines out of your writings & life.

Deborah said...

What a story, Mair. Glad you were there. I am sure God through you saved more than one life that day.

Have a joyous, blessed Lent.

Love in Him,


Candy said...

I would love to spend a day with you. What an adventure. You're on a love adventure, girl! But then, isn't every situation we consciously invite God into a love adventure? That's what I'm trying to do everyday.

Anonymous said...

"And then as if some inner censor forbids any more, she stops."

I wonder if the problem was the rest of the words,

"we're just ordinary people//we don't know which way to go"

God knows none of us are ordinary in His eyes.


Tangerinetinselbreeze said...

I love the way you paint life. Thanks for your post. You are a gift to those that meet you and read you.

Danielle said...

What a great itty witty bitty step :o)