Taken for Granted {Colouring Pages Can Change the World}

This past Fall I spent sometime working with Women in crisis in my city.  Women who are homeless.  Women battling addictions and women who have experienced the hollowing out of being used and discarded. This experience has provided me with a different perspective.  I spent some time writing about my experiences and will sporadically be sharing them here.  

Janice* is high today.  Her pupils are as big as saucers, she is having trouble focusing and needs to tilt her head and look down her nose to sign her name on the sign-in sheet.  It looks as if there are ants vibrating just under the surface of her skin and she cannot stop moving.  She is shaking her head and swaying back and forth uncontrollably. 

There is a basket of trial size shampoos and conditioners on the coutner and the women can help themselves to two of whatever they want.  Janice is spending a lot time pawing through the basket, often picking up the same thing over and over again.  She is collecting more than a few on the counter in front of her as she continues to rummage and I gently remind her that she can only take two items.
This might have been a mistake.
She inhales sharply through her nose and she shaes her head from side to side.  She is not afraid to let me know that I am pushing the boundaries with her.  I cast a wary glance around the room hoping to catch sight of the floor staff and to plan my escapte should she decide to come around or over the desk. 
A part-time staff person catches my look and I quickly nod my head toward Janice and she hears what I am not saying.  She casually makes her way closer to the counter.  She doesn’t intervene but her presence is calming to both Janice and I. 
I’ve encountered those who struggle with addictions before in previous employment, but I have never encountered this level of agressive behaviour before.  I’m shaken by the intereaction and what I really would like to do is hide, but I can’t.  It is busy this morning.  It’s cold and we’ve just had snow.  The women are freezing and they want vouchers for the thrift store so they can access warm clothes. 
Even though the climate in the agency started about as cool as the weather this morning, there is a sense of anticipation working it’s way through the room. 
Christmas is coming soon and these women know it.  They are trying to find ways to celebrate a holiday, to somehow make everything feel normal.  
I’ve been photocopying Christmas colouring pages all morning.  There’s an entire table of grown women bent over colouring pages, with a box of coloured sprawled out between them.  The singular focus with which they attend to this small joy has my eyes pricking with tears. 
Somewhere in the mess that is their lives they have found an element of joy, a piece of somthing outside of their circumstances to calm and soothe.  I cannot help but feek as if I take too much of what I have for granted.  
I spend far too much time moaning and complaining and even though I am steeped in privilege and position I have to scramble to find joy to fill my day.  I think I need to find some colouring pages.  I need to be reminded of simpler thigs.  I need to be reminded that joy doesn’t always do an end run around your pain, but that it emerges bld and scandously beautiful right out of the middle of it. 
I know it’s not as simple as colouring pages changing lives but perhaps that’s the start.  Perhaps its finding the beautiful in every sitatuation that helps us to see past the ugly.  It is this that will have Janice returning to the agency without the high of her morning fix, and she will be accepted and loved, no matter what and no questions asked about the previous day’s behaviour. The beautiful will be the laughter that rings out above the scratch of pencil crayons on paper.  
The beautilful in the ugly. 
I see my privilege as ugly, a scab that does nothing more than crust over what should be given air to heal.  Today I see my privlege as something that I would like to erase so I can, if only briefly, feel what these women feel as they find joy in the middle of their pain. 
*Names have been changed to protect the identity of the individual 

Leave a Reply