At the end of a long day, I went to the beauty salon. Before getting my hair blown dry, a young man whom I don’t know was washing my hair in the sink. He made me feel so incredibly good by simply massaging my scalp.
I thought to myself, this is so intimate, so close yet not at all intrusive and absolutely comfortable.
If any other stranger had started washing my hair and massaging my scalp, I don’t know if I would have felt so relaxed and able to exhale the way I did with this person whose name I can’t seem to remember.
Intimacy. We all want it, but we are afraid of the vulnerability it exposes us to.
We crave it, yet we keep such tight boundaries that prevent us from having it.
People can be such silly creatures.
Happiness thrives when we have intimacy.
Later on, that same week, one of my Homeboys, who is working so hard to change his ways, got a job at my synagogue.
He was to arrive early on Saturday morning to begin.
I told him I would meet him there to avoid any possible issues with the security guard when he walks in.
I got there a little early. I worry so about my Homies.
I was schmoozing with the security guard telling him about this man whom I adore, a man who is so special, a wonderful quiet, sweet individual, a man who has shown me what change in real time looks like.
I suddenly realize when the guard asked me that I don’t know my Homie’s name.
The guard looked at me and said,
“You just spoke about this human for about 15 minutes saying how remarkable he is, and you don’t know his name? How am I supposed to trust you?”
It was 7:15 on a Saturday morning. I was standing there in my sweatpants, glasses and hair on top of my head. This is not how the guard typically sees me when I walk into synagogue casually at 10:30 on every other Saturday morning.
“Do I need to know his name to love him?” I ask the guard.
“I am going inside for a moment,” I tell the guard.
He looks at me.
“If he comes while you are inside, can I ask him your name?” he asks me.
I shrug and smile. “I don’t know if he knows it.”
He looks at me a little worried.
What was funny was that when my Homie arrived, he didn’t know my name either.
I was the teacher. He was my student. That was enough.
We both truly respect each other.
We had a good laugh at the fact that we don’t know each other’s names.
The guard went from worry to serious concern, but he let it go.
When we walked in together, I put my hand on his shoulder. He looked at me. Tenderness isn’t something they get in the gang.
It was a sweet, intimate moment.
“I am happy you are here,” I say.
“I am so proud of you,” I add.
I was so worried he wouldn’t show up.
I was so excited he did.
He was quiet, as I said, this one is a shy, quiet one.
You can create an intimate moment with kindness.
You can create an intimate moment if you pay attention.
You actually create intimate moments by simply being present.
Intimacy is such a sensitive thing and people are so incredibly protective.
I spent 6 years working inside the walls of the LA County lock up facilities. On one particular day, I put my arm around someone who was reading a difficult poem.
“Ms.,” she said.
“My mom never hugged me. She was so high she could barely get off the couch,” the girl added.
My mom never hugged me! That sentence rung in my head again and again.
Can you imagine that?
My mom never hugged me.
My kids are in a phase in which they can’t stand when I hug them. They are teenagers.
“Enough,” they say.
I so, so, so miss hugging them!
“Ms.,” she said.
“Thank you for putting your arm on my shoulder. It made me feel.”
“It made you feel what?” I ask.
“I don’t know,” she says.
“It just made me feel.”
She, too, is a teenager and expressing how she feels might be too much.
Maybe feeling is too much, but it is so important.
“You really should not be so touchy-feely,” they tell me.
We must try to create intimate moments where it is least expected with people who are usually the least likely intimate suspect.
Because in those unexpected, intimate moments there is a space of goodness.
And in that space of goodness empowerment happens.
And where empowerment happens that is where transformation begins.