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Lions Roar : January 2019
SHAHARA GODFREY is a core teacher at the East Bay Meditation Center and holds a PhD in Trans- formative Learning from California Institute of Integral Studies. PHOTOBYSCOTTHOLLOWAYPHOTOBYJASONDEANTONIS Californian with nothing warmer than a thin fleece and borrowed boots, the snow was inconceivable. A few weeks after Ricky died, I walked the twenty minutes to the gro- cery store. Heavy snow was falling, a blizzard brewing. On my way back home, the storm gathered force and snow flew in all directions. Ice flakes stuck to my lashes and cheeks. I brought the paper bag of groceries up as a shield and, as I did, the bag ripped and the groceries fell to the street. The milk poured out. The eggs cracked. The oranges rolled down the hill. I sat down on the sidewalk, rested my head on my knees, and began to cry a year’s worth of tears. I was shaking, but the tears were warm. At some point, I noticed someone was sitting beside me, not too close. While I sobbed, they sat there quietly, just witnessing, a very light hand resting on my back. I do not know how long we sat. Eventually, my shaking subsided. When I finally looked up, tears spent, the person was gone. I walked home, letting the snow hit me full in the face. Each bone in my body hurt from the cold, but I was lighter than I had been in a long time. I never saw that person’s face, but their kindness has stayed with me and transformed how I relate to the suffering of others. Kindness comes with grace, asks nothing, requires nothing, and leaves its indelible mark. The next morning, there was no trace of the storm, just a faint shine to the world now glistening in the sun. Strangers No More BY SHAHARA GODFREY THE OTHER DAY I WAS SHOPPING at one of those large, get-every- thing-you-need department stores when I passed another African American woman in the aisle. “Cancer?” she whispered, noticing my short hairstyle. Though my hair doesn’t have anything to do with me being a cancer survivor, she was right. I am a survivor. The woman and I discovered we’d each had cancer twice—breast cancer for her, multiple myeloma for me. She shared some of her ongoing strug- gles with her latest remission and I shared mine. We commiserated and laughed out loud about the irony of being alive and blessed, coupled with feelings of pain and suffering. And then we showed each other our battle scars, saying, “Girl, please!” I was moved by her stories and shared some supportive information that I hoped would make her life easier. I felt like I was offering her gifts, and she unwrapped each one with such appreciation. She talked about the power of prayer. We laughed about how fierce our daughters could be with their protectiveness. This camaraderie was such a welcome surprise. I loved how we laughed about our battle wounds from chemo and other treatments. There was so much common struggle shared in such a short period of time, yet it wasn’t until later that I fully grasped how caring and kind we had been with each other. This spontaneous compassion given from stranger to stranger was simply wonderful—and we were strangers no more. As we parted, we hugged, while kindness held both our hands. The woman said a prayer for both of us. All I could do was smile with gratitude. RACHEL NEUMANN is the associate publisher of Shambhala Publications. Her latest book is I Am Home: Portraits of Immigrant Teenagers. LION’S ROAR | JANUARY 2019 58