She was crying and shaking, eyes damp slits, hat and mask and coat covering all except her wringing hands and worried forehead. Anxious and depressed, she had been out of meds for months. It's possible they helped but at this point she can't remember. All she knows is that most Mondays she can't even convince herself to leave her camp. A few times she had paced outside the church's fence, watching the people, deciding who the triage person must be, trying to map out a clear path, before giving up and hurrying back home.
But this time she had done it. Perhaps she was desperate enough, arrived before it was too busy, saw a friendly face- it doesn't matter, she was here now, first checking in, then getting her vitals and symptoms documented, then being directed to the empty metal folding chair against the church wall, the one facing me.
I listened as she shared some of her many worries, her trauma, all of it visible and wordless in her prematurely aged face. She faced outward, scanning the parking lot, asking me to be sure no one came near, saying that there are too many people here. I asked Maddie to keep an eye on her, making sure that no one bothered her and that she didn't run away before I could get her medications.
Kay and Mary filled the prescriptions and I hurried back outside. Gone less than five minutes, she had moved my chair in front of hers, stacking her bags on top of it and around her as a shield. She was relieved to receive the little bottles and I encouraged her to come back. See it was easy- come back next month! A quick smile as she sprinted out to the sidewalk and around the corner, dodging and weaving.
There are countless stories like this. People who wouldn't ever receive care without CBB, like the one last week where KK, Sharol, Bethany and I worked on a man's toes for nearly an hour, ancient toenail dust accumulating into dunes on the exam table as the shapeless mess was clipped, pulled and ground down to something more recognizable. He laughed and smiled and looked forward to his next date when he could take his socks and shoes off and dance to Stevie Nicks.
It's a gift to be able to participate so intimately in others' lives. There are holy moments and the lines between giver and receiver are blurred. All of us have the opportunity to do so if we try.