Sometime ago, I attended a workshop at a hotel downtown. When I arrived, I wasn’t sure where to go and approached a waitress I saw setting up a table in the lobby restaurant. As I approached, she looked at me, smiled and said, “Louise. How wonderful to see you.”
“Hi!” I replied, glancing at her name tag. “Claire*. I know I know you but I can’t remember from where.”
She smiled. Glanced around to see if anyone was within earshot. “From the shelter,” she said. “I was a client there years ago.”
My eyes widened in wonder. “Wow! I wouldn’t have recognized you. You look fabulous,” I told her.
And she did. Her once gaunt face had filled out. Her eyes sparkled. Claire, when I knew her many years ago at the shelter was a crack addict. While there, she drifted in and out of sobriety, in and out of rehab with never a stint of sobriety lasting longer than a couple of weeks.
When high, she flitted like a butterfly, laughing and joking with everyone.
When coming down, she drifted through the room like a wounded sparrow, dragging a broken wing, fluttering feebly, fearful it would never fly again.
When sober, she volunteered. Helped out where ever she could, constantly staying busy in the hope she would not succumb to the call of the drugs eating at her peace of mind. “I want to be sober,” she told me often. “I really want it, but I’m too scared to let go of the drugs.”
She’s been clean and sober for several years.
“I’m loving it,” she told me. “Love being sober. Love getting to know me again,” she laughed. “I was too afraid to do that before.” She glanced upwards, pointed above. “It’s a miracle. I’d be dead by now if He hadn’t found me lying in the dirt and picked me up. I am so grateful for His Love.”
Claire’s sobriety was hard work. Rehab. Fall. Rehab. Fall. Until one day, there was no more falling. No more rehab.
“There were so many people who made a difference on my journey,” she said. “I say thank you every day.”
We chatted for a bit. My eyes welled up several times as she told me about her journey, her letting go and surrendering to Love.
As we said good-bye, she gave me a hug. “I’ve always wanted to thank you for being so kind. You always treated everyone with respect. It meant a lot. You reminded me of what was possible even when I was high and running scared.”
I wanted to brush off her compliment. To slip away and let it slide off me.
I chose not to. I chose instead to let her words lift me up and to give her my appreciation for sharing her story with me.
“Thank you,” I said. “Your words mean a lot to me. Seeing you has reminded me to never let go of hope. To always believe in the beauty of the human spirit. I’m so glad you are alive.”
There are no accidents even though running into Claire felt like one at the time.
In Claire’s story I was reminded of the magnificence of the human spirit when it soars free of limiting thoughts and behaviours that tie us to the belief we do not deserve Love. Chatting with Claire reminded that we are all at times like a bird with a broken wing, desperately trying to take flight. It is only when we do the hard work of letting go and falling into Love, that we set ourselves free.
In Love’s embrace, we are safe in our humanity. In Love, even broken wings find the courage to fly.
* not her real name