On June 15, 2013 I was coming home from an afternoon at the pool when a woman wearing a chef's hat and coat ran into the street to wave me to stop. When I stopped the car and rolled down my window, she was frantically shouting that her husband had been shot. I pulled over into the parking lot of the pizza place at the end of my street, and dialed 911. As I followed her across the small paved lot, she ran to her husband's side. He was lying on the ground at the foot of the cement steps leading to the door, not moving. My husband, knelt down by his side, opposite this strange woman keening over him, and held his hand as Rich Evans looked once at his wife and breathed out for the last time.
That night, still in my bathing suit and cover-up, I watched while the coroner rolled her husband away, and listened to her repeat over and over, "I don't have no one." I stood, wringing my hands and realized that this stranger, while not shot or physically injured, was still in real danger herself. She was a Thai immigrant who never talked to anyone but her husband and 3 children. She didn't use money. She didn't even know her address. I asked about family, near or far. There was none.
Sometimes change happens slowly in life, like the small wrinkles on your face, or the slow but steady weight gain that occurs with age, or your kids growing from kindergarteners to 8th graders. On June 15, 2013, a change happened to me, distinctly and immediately, like a giant gear of the universe audibly clanking into place. I remember asking myself, "What I'm supposed to do with this?"
From murder to magic
I had no real choice but to just watch what was happening in front of me and hope some guidance would reveal itself. As if by some magical force, the very next day a small team of people gathered at the foot of those cement steps. Some were neighbors, most were strangers, but together we coordinated a journey none of us could have ever thought ourselves walking. One step at a time, one hour at a time, we moved into her world and began the process of rebuilding a life where one was destroyed. I walked with them, taking the lead in areas where I could, and following and supporting when others contributed to this massive undertaking. Everyone did what they were able to do. Help manifested in the hearts and hands of complete strangers. I did not get discouraged or feel overwhelmed because I knew there were others to step in when I couldn't.
A few weeks into the Evan's Family Experience, I was driving in the car recalling someone who had expressed her awe and admiration at what we as a group were doing to help the fragile family. All of a sudden, I felt so beautiful. Deep, infinite, soul beautiful. The kind of beautiful that transcends actions or appearances. I sobbed with the deep truth of it. This was real life, and the community that gathered around to make a difference in someone's life was the epitome of the beauty of humanity. I felt I was a tiny sliver of the divine goodness of the universe. What incredible fortune I was given on this otherwise terrible and tragic day.
I wanted to experience more of that beautiful interaction between humans who are struggling and binding together to fight their way through life.
I realized that this beautiful interaction was happening elsewhere in my life. I'd felt it, but didn't have a name for it until my experience with the Evans Family. This struggling and celebrating in a community was also happening every Monday in my Creative Juice meet-up group. At first glance, it was just a half-dozen creative folks having coffee, but that beautiful magic was definitely happening there too.
We, as a group of just normal, slightly genius, slightly broken people, were making a huge difference in each other's lives too, just by offering what little we could to help another person. We were boosting spirits when rejections came. We were collaborating when new skills were needed in a project. We were making real, lifelong friendships because we had decided to just do our best together. We allowed our minor irritations with each other to be softened by familiarity and shared stories. We stuck together and were making the journey so much more fruitful.
It didn't seem right to limit that magic in any part of my life anymore, or anyone else's. That summer of 2013, I spoke a promise to myself:
My next job is to make this community of creative people available to anyone who needs it.
And so, four years later and a lot of missteps and crying and joyful friendships along the way, I am fulfilling a destiny that I had no idea would be mine. Creative Juice is the community I love and nurture for the benefit of anyone who needs it. MORE Creative Juice is the technical help we need to do the work. It's just beautiful!