• June 22, 2011

Between Homes

One month after I was home in Arkansas… from my home in India… I returned to my home in New York. And the month and a half I spent with my Brooklyn Heart’s Home family com­forted my heart with the truth that I will forever have a home within Heart’s Home. A home whose door they assure me is always open… with a wel­come that calms the storm within a tran­si­tion full of tender mourning for the life I had dis­cov­ered in mis­sion and now the realm of pos­si­bil­i­ties for the end­less “what’s next?” ques­tions. It’s about going from an aware­ness of standing at the edge of my life, the finality of my life, in a con­text that always led me into the mys­tery and meaning… back, but really a for­ward back, into the familiar unknown reality of home. Proving to be almost even more chal­lenging than when I arrived in India… because now my eyes have changed and the cri­teria by which I want to live has been trans­formed.

How easy it is to return to a com­pla­cency that kills the mys­tery, or fogs my eyes from regarding His pres­ence among us here, in a place that I’ve seen before; a place that does not have the firefly twin­kling trees or the ropes of scented jas­mine buds… the flocking to me of bright eyed chil­dren in the street or the con­tem­pla­tive grand­mother awaiting my passing by. The mis­sion is filled with many spe­cial graces that enlarges the eye of the soul, and this enlarging I believe is allowed then, to serve me now. My time in Heart’s Home Brooklyn was a gift to con­tinue the teaching of my heart, so that I may see the clus­ters of light in the dark and the cry within the smiles of my people, my family, and my friends. Discovering little by little how to con­tinue living the mis­sion of com­pas­sion immersed within the cul­ture of dance and design. Discoveries that occurred in the simple acts of meeting friends for coffee, vis­iting the nursing home, taking dance classes, sewing clothes, praying with the com­mu­nity, wel­coming vis­i­tors, and sharing about my mis­sion. And the biggest dis­covery: unity within all of who I am does not arrive out of my willing it nor out of my own efforts— it is given. But I must be awake to receive the gift.

I arrived in Brooklyn at the begin­ning of May, right in the midst of the orga­nizing and putting on of the annual Heart’s Home fundraising gala. Preparing table décor, proof-reading speeches, making my dress… loading the van, set­ting the tables, folding the nap­kins… turning the National Bohemian Hall on the Upper East Side of Manhattan into a space with demon­strates our efforts to create a home for everyone’s heart. It was a very spe­cial moment for me to wit­ness the expan­sion and growth of Heart’s Home USA; I was full of immense grat­i­tude to be a part of such a great thing. I, along with many pre­sent, real­ized fur­ther or even for the first time how much I need the friend­ship of Heart’s Home in my life. Hearing the words of the artist Sean Scully say in receiving the Compassion Award that “We do the same thing”… both striving to re-humanize a cul­ture that devalues the dig­nity of human life. Re-human­izing through his eye of sim­plicity and beauty and purity of line; through the way he lives his life. I want my art to live out of this same gaze of com­pas­sion.

That gaze begins with an inner ges­ture that sparks a friend­ship, and that night I shared with everyone the story of Sofia, our friend from the Garden of Mercy who died of AIDS last August. It was a pow­erful moment to expe­ri­ence the love lived within the mis­sion extending beyond that time and space to be pre­sent now. My only desire was to share the essence of Sofia and the gift she offered the world through her life. And in that moment she was at my side again, entreating us all to wake up to the beauty of life and the power of pres­ence. I was deeply touched by the response of those lis­tening… speaking to me after­wards from a deep place in their hearts as they could only say “Thank you. Thank you for sharing Sofia.” And my heart could only whisper through glis­tening tears of hope “Thank you Sofia.”

My first encounter with Heart’s Home was in Brooklyn two February’s ago when I arrived at their door on a dark night after a dance rehearsal, having no idea it would bring me to where I am now. They wel­comed me simply right into their life of prayer, and com­mu­nity, and visits to the neigh­boring nursing homes and housing pro­jects... and into their teach­ings that res­onated deeply with what I was looking for in my life. It was in the smile of the friends they serve and in the wit­ness of the vol­un­teer’s hap­pi­ness that I knew my “yes” was already made. To return almost two years later, meeting again a city I had once wanted to run away from, and to see it with new eyes and new love… meeting again the friends and neigh­bors, finding myself within the story of their lives. It was over­whelm­ingly simple and filled with a renewal of grat­i­tude. The arrival of new friends and the birth of babies… the moving for­ward of careers and the starting of new ven­tures all proved my absence yet marked my return with joy. I found myself in many beau­tiful con­ver­sa­tions with dancer/artist friends that told of our par­allel jour­neys con­nected in a mys­tical search for the same truth. Dialogues of life and pres­ence and com­mu­nity that left each one of us walking away refreshed and enlivened… with cer­ti­tude that we are not alone.

Being a part of the bustling life in Brooklyn eased my tran­si­tion by giving me rhythm and pur­pose… and plenty of lis­tening ears to follow and direct my heart. These days, like many lived in a Heart’s Home, were filled with many sto­ries and encoun­ters and activ­i­ties to draw me out of myself into another. How encour­aging it has been to meet with so many dif­ferent people that in one way or another were fol­lowing my time in India… that have been antic­i­pating my return in order to hear from me first hand how this expe­ri­ence has changed my life, with an avail­ability for theirs to be changed as well. Encounters that have been keeping me forever in awe of the mag­ni­fying effects of saying “Yes” to be a wit­ness of Christ’s love.

And that’s all I know. If you ask me where I live I’ll tell you the address of where I am cur­rently standing! Right now it’s St. Louis, Missouri, next week Van Buren, Arkansas… sev­eral weeks after that Vienna, Austria. Traveling to meet my loves… family, friends, and dance. Although I can’t tell you exactly what’s next, I trust that I will simply end up right where I am sup­posed to be.

Renee K.

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