The sky is dark and the rains have come, lessening the heat of the day. This morning Bridget, a board member, and I drove the psychiatric institution in Sevan to see our resident, Anna, who has been living there since last summer. As many of you remember, it took sweat and tears and years and blood and more years to bring Anna home. And then she finally came home, and our hearts rejoiced. She was home for over two years and we did not take that for granted, though often it seemed surreal. Then last summer, one thing followed another and she ended up back in the institutions. And our hearts wept with her. And ending up back in *this* place also seemed surreal. When you circle around a dark place a hundred times, the edges are as familiar as your own skin. And it becomes hard to imagine a way out. You know the feeling -- each doing your own circling, your own fighting the darkness.
But today, as we drove away from the clinic, a small possibility opened up to us. It isn't that it is easy, but even a small possibility brings light to the dark places of this world, of our hearts. That small possibility is simple. It is the simple things that are most profound, though. And the hardest. And the possibility is simply that we need to find a way to open up the world to Anna, open up our home, and open avenues between our home and our surrounding community. We need to find a way to keep her "in the world" -- and not isolated. We need to find a way for her to touch and be touched by wider circles than our home. On some level we have known this for quite some time -- but it seemed stark and clear to me today as I looked at her, and we spoke to her nurse, and considered our own home. Of course, this won't solve every problem. There are other real problems. But I feel like this is part of the picture that might make a difference.
But you see, the problem is this: our neighborhood (like so many neighborhoods around the world) here is not open to the idea of Warm Hearth. And so our residents are not as free as we would like. They are not as free as they need to be. And Anna, especially, needs that freedom to flourish.
As we drove through mountain passes back to Yerevan, from the institution, we wondered aloud how this shift could happen for Warm Hearth. How can we reach out to our neighbors and begin the work of teaching them to embrace our residents? Or rather, how do we begin the work of teaching them to accept our residents, if embracing is still too much to hope for? And we circled around this question and I felt exhaustion so deep in my bones as I thought of the sweat and blood and tears and years ahead of us. Here we are, again.
But then an hour later, we had a meeting with a friend who was coming to Warm Hearth to look at our handicrafts. And somehow, in the midst of that conversation, we turned toward the neighborhood and the grassroots efforts that are needed to make this turn, to nurture this change. And this is Anahit's gift -- that kind of gift that comes from someone's deepest heart, and their skills and personality and experience line right up with that gift to make them the perfect person for that work. Well, that is the kind of gift that Anahit has when it comes to this groundwork in a building community around issues of disability. And we met with her, today of all days.
I know that Anna cannot wait for this slow work to take root, to find that water hidden far below the surface. And I know we'll have to figure something out in the meantime. And I believe we will. But there is some profound hope I have in knowing what we must turn toward for now, and in this next season. And it is our neighbors. Our neighbors who have sued us and tried to get us kicked out of the neighborhood. Our neighbors who have threatened our residents, and pretended that they were going to run our residents over to scare them away. It is our neighbors that we have to open our hearts to, and find and nurture our shared humanity and vulnerability.
This is our calling. Here we turn our work with the residents outward, reaching out, opening our hearts wider than we ever thought we would have to open them.
What a world.