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30 minutes between hell and heaven

October 23, 2023

I am currently in Los Angeles to do some teaching and while here I visited a friend. We decided to go to "The Last Bookstore" in downtown LA. We both love to read and this is one of the last independent bookstores in town.

As we drove there, we had to go through Skid Row. What a heart breaking place. Hundreds of tents, thousands of people. Some laying in the middle of sidewalk (and street), others walking around incoherently, and others rocking back and forth in contorted bodies. Hell! Was the first word that came to my mind. What despair, what pain, what sadness.
We were trying to find a parking place, but there was a major demonstration going on and it seemed like we were in a war zone. So we decided to leave.

As we made our way to Santa Monica pier we talked about my friends work as a social worker and counselor to help unhomed people. Over and over we talked about the need for connections, the need for community, support, and wellness. She feels her work is only filling a drop in the bucket.

As we entered the Santa Monica area, everything changed, again hundreds of people, but with a very different focus. They were stuck in the tourist trap of overpriced foods and rides and a time at the beach. What a contrast. From hell to somewhere else.

I am reflecting on this and wonder if not both sets of people are trapped in addictions. One is about the drugs and the trauma of life. The other is about the thrill of entertainment and a way to escape the pressures of life. (nothing against entertainment and fun!)

Henry David Thoreau said "the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation". I wonder how many of us, live in quiet desperation. Some try to fill it with drugs others with entertainment. How do we balance our lives? How do we find deep meaning in a world that seems to be falling apart?

In our conversations Becky and I are convinced that change happens when we live in community, when we get to be with people who care and help us balance the demands of our lives. In her years of working in counseling so many times it came down to having people to trust, people who would listen, people who could help find a new way.

How can you and I make a difference in this world? Maybe it is the smile you give to person, or the extra tip? Or maybe it is having friends over for dinner? Find a way to live in the balance of life.

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