I was employed as the manager of the Day Program of the local LifeSkills agency, under the auspices of the Department of Mental Health, for individuals clinically diagnosed with developmental or mental challenges. Perhaps I’ve addressed this before, a few years ago. It was at LifeSkills, shortly after my service began, that I learned something about myself that I’d failed to recognize or perhaps denied. All of my life I thought I was Na’imah Combs, daughter of Marance and Ruth Montgomery and that I had four brothers! I thought that Robert had actually thrown that cat on my back when we were children. I believed in the relatives identified as my uncles, aunts, and cousins and all the years of my life spent with them. I believed that I had done all the things I remembered in this lifetime—until Sal, a tall, slender man in the program, who introduced himself as the King of Spain, approached me nobly about my deception.
“Na’imah, I know that you’re not who you say you are. You remind me of Cousin Nelson.”
“I don’t know him”, I said smiling, while Sal looked directly in my face. “What about me reminds you of him”?
“Oh…well I’m not Cousin Nelson, Sal, but I’m glad that I remind you of him”. He smiled. In the days ahead, he sometimes came into my office or approached me in the Day Room to share a spot of wisdom.
“People are cruel to animals, and because they are, the animals get back at us by getting us to eat them”.
“Yes, they do,” I said, looking at him as if he had just suddenly appeared in the room! Sal placed his hand over his mouth when I smiled. It was months later that he informed me of his nine-foot daughter.
“She was born that way,” he explained,
“How did that happen”?
“I overpowered my wife.”
“Oh”! Then I looked across the Day Room at Blanche, whom he had claimed as that daughter. The little lady, about five feet in height and the conspicuous differences between them, illuminated his sincere, humorous story in my mind!
Then there was 48 year old Mason, also tall. Loved to walk. “Hey”! He would smile and speak to me every morning when they arrived from the group home. Often I would see his five-year-old self running behind him. One day he stopped at the door of my office.
“How old are you, Na’imah?”
“Forty-five,” I said, as Allen, who never took off his coon-skin cap, wafted by like a breeze…smooth strides.
“God, you’re old”!
I laughed out loud. Mason smiled deeply then left my doorway. One summer when we were scheduled to attend the fair at the state capitol, my supervisor assigned me (not any other staff member) the responsibility of watching him on the fairgrounds so he wouldn’t wander off. Mason didn’t get away! He simply smiled at me whenever I called to him if he seemed to be leaving my presence.
Sal and Mason were just two among the men and women in the program. I enjoyed interacting with all of them and they loved my perception of them as Bright Spots! Sometimes we went to Wal Mart where they accepted the responsibility of shopping for food we would prepare…and being among other people! They enjoyed riding the vans and were absolutely quiet when we traveled to other regional LifeSkills agencies or any other field trip.
In our daily classes, the program members were most peaceful when engaged in art—making collages, drawing their perceptions of a galaxy on a poster, whatever. On the mornings when they were most agitated upon arrival, I would deviate from the class schedule and allow them to engage in art. Sometimes we would Color the Circle drawn on the board. Each participant would select a marker and color a portion of the circle, and while doing so would share their thoughts. This was done until the Circle was no longer white, and it was beautiful.
In the program, Will, who seldom talked, learned to express himself more with gestures and also learned to color an image inside the lines; his cousin, April, with her beautiful voice became more outspoken in group activities; others learned to rake leaves, take out the garbage … basic skills some of their guardians at home did not have the patience to teach them. Sometimes those in the program, like Aaron, with reading and writing skills, would facilitate group discussions with minimal assistance.
Perhaps you, the reader, are wondering where this is headed. Well, I’m remembering many of the program participants, the Love that was revealed in them and Love as I am aware of it now. Also, I’ve had recent glimpses of myself in similar past life environments. I’ve begun to wonder, more so why, as a youth, I desired to pursue a career in the field of Mental Health. Soon, clarity.
Love and Light
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