Me: The birds look like apostrophes

Him: What are the words if the birds are apostrophes?

Several of us gathered today to say goodbye to a friend who passed away. We met at City Hall, where most of us originally entered one another’s lives. And we walked together to the tree on the other side of the river on which little medallions were pinned to mark the deaths of  others who, like our friend Chris, were houseless but not without friends in life or in death.

Several people told stories of their friendship with Chris. Universally, we agreed he was a gentle man. A quiet man. A man who forced us to slow down and think. And rethink. And as I listened, I realized I was not only mourning the loss of Chris, but also the loss of that time. That time when we all gathered several times a week to slow down, sit down…and talk. And listen. And plan together. And just to gather with a group of people from disparate backgrounds and experiences – a group of people who, under normal circumstances, might never get a chance to meet – and become aware of each other as fellow humans…and struggle together. And learn from each other. And totally fuck up in the presence of each other. And forgive each other. And try again.

I didn’t tell any stories today. Today, I listened. The truth is, I didn’t have a lot of stories to tell about Chris. I cared about him. I tried to look out for him the best I could. I respected his growth and his journey. I remember him.  I will miss him. But it’s not enough to miss someone like Chris. It’s not enough to mourn and be sad and go on living and forgetting all that I have learned through my friendship with Chris, and through all of the other unlikely companions I’ve been blessed to come to know over the past few years. There were so many lessons learned. So many I forgot. It’s time to remember them now. It’s time to come out of hibernation and be present in the world again, and open to listening and sharing and relating.

The things I have learned as an occupier are lessons I have needed to learn my whole life. And I’m not merely talking about social and economic justice. I’m talking about taking the time to really see people. To see AND hear them. Taking the time to be present in public spaces and share with people. I don’t think I’m done learning those lessons yet. I don’t think I’ve learned them well enough, and I think they are too easily forgotten. I still have a too-frequent tendency to hide myself away. To hurry from one thing to the next without stopping and giving time to appreciate the unexpected. I still frequently neglect the things that are most important while freely frittering time on things that have no soul-nutritional value.

This is how I know that Occupy is not dead. Because we haven’t learned these lessons yet. We are too easily distracted and divided. And until we can learn to come together and be present, we will continue to Occupy where we should be Living.

Rest in Peace, dear Chris. I hardly knew you, but I certainly loved you. In honor of your memory, I plan to spend at least an hour every Sunday occupying the steps of City Hall with my sketchbook and journal. People watching, and hopefully conversing. Maybe I’ll bring a sign…maybe I’ll go incognito. It’s not 3 General Assemblies a day, every day…but it’s something. Maybe I’ll see you there.

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