I've Lived In Chico, CA 9 Years Now. Incredible.
Change A Life in Five Minutes
“Are you staying on track for 2012?” The words assaulted me while I was still trying to get my left eye to open this morning. Jumping on my email via my ever present Blackberry is the method that usually works best in helping me make the transition to the so-called real world, but I should have saved this note for later. Answer: Er, nope.
I have a theory about our failed attempts in the area of Resolution Management. In late December, many of us have a little extra quiet time at work, and we can actually think about ourselves. We can reflect, dream, and resolve. But as soon as we get back into life’s routines, we’re back scrambling and fixing problems that have little to do with our personal lives. By the end of the day, we are too tired to work at anything except maybe getting the last of the peanut butter out of the jar for a late-night snack.
So the three pounds I gained during the holidays linger. I try to avoid stress eating just to maintain myself until I can get the motivation to regain what was lost, or rather, lose what I gained. This is my major accomplishment of most any year despite my grand schemes. My life is not going to change dramatically any time soon.
But that may not be what any of us needs most after all.
I recently came across a feature in the Chico News & Review about a masseuse working at a nearby tattoo parlor/beauty salon (that’s so Chico.) It focused on her philosophy as relates to her practice: she doesn’t turn people away, regardless of their ability to pay. An expert in chair massage, which focuses on muscle groups and is done through clothing, Cecilia Lore will give anyone five minutes of therapeutic touch while offering advice on nutrition and living as stress-free a life as possible.
What might “anyone” look like? It’s worth a small digression to describe what that looks like in Chico, for those who don’t know. It's a blend of opposites. Politically, it’s a mix of ultra-conservatives and bleeding heart liberals, farmers and professors, sophisticated tiny city (something like Evanston, IL) and rural land. It’s country and it’s classy. Our adopted city get-away is San Francisco, about 3.5 hours away. We pretty much live life the way we want to here and dress as up, down, or as little as we wish. Like California generally, Chico is liberal in benefits to people with developmental disabilities, who often live in their own homes in the community. There are many needy and homeless people, too, and it has its share of meth and other addicts.
Cecilia promotes a hard won philosophy. She battled alcoholism and drug dependency herself. A family took her in and nurtured her attempts to overcome her addictions. Her experience in recovery “made me see how even a small gesture could brighten someone’s day and have a lasting impact.”
So used are some people to being invisible or untouchable, she says, they learn to shy away from any connection. “Not to stereotype, but homeless people can go a long time without receiving that kind of attention.” Generally, they – and countless others generally - don’t have any access to the physical connection that social scientists and medical researchers affirm is a basic human requirement for most of us to thrive.
Cecilia asks that we all look around our daily lives and take five minutes to have some impact on another person’s life, even if (maybe especially if) we aren’t in a helping profession. She challenges us to step out of our comfort zones with the intention of making an effort to connect. “It can have a big impact in our community,” she says. And probably in more ways than we realize.
Last night, I found myself in a busy pharmacy waiting area. I thought of Cecilia, and laid aside my BlackBerry to say a few words to an elderly lady in a wheelchair next to me. Within a few minutes, I learned that she was a retired teacher taking two extension classes at Chico State. “I am becoming a better writer so I can tell my life story,” she said. “I lived during the dust bowl and some terrible times in Oklahoma. But it made me strong, and I want my kids and grandkids to know how to get over terrible things, to get strong, too. I want to show them it can be done.” She leaned in closer to me and shared the ultimate goal, the fruition of her dream. “I am going to make SIX copies of my story when I am done,” she said, tapping the arm of her chair. “And I will send it to them.”
Wow. I have no doubt. As I took my leave we said goodbye, and I thanked her for making the time waiting so pleasant. “Thank you,” she said with a wave of her hand. “You know, I have been a little depressed lately and the doctor said taking classes would help me come out of my shell. I feel better every time I do that.”