As many members of the extended St. Joseph’s community enjoy time with family and share in the tradition of exchanging gifts, I thought readers would enjoy the following story written by one of our Veteran residents describing his, and other members of the Veterans Program improv. troupe, describing their giving of their gifts of time and talent to our adolescents at Rose Hill, and of the true meaning of this special time of year.
The Trip to Rose Hill and the Gift of Time
Today is December 10th, 2019 and today is the day I have been prepping for for a month since I got the word from Dr. O. that we would be going to Rose Hill to see the kids there and perform our improv routine.
My emotions are all over the place leading up to this day, not only because we are going to be giving a demonstration of our routine, but because I will also be performing a couple of my songs that I’ve created during the most trying times in my life. It’s funny how some of the darkest moments in life can produce some of my greatest works of art and music.
Today is a day that we get to give back to others what was so freely given to us. Today we get to give to them what I would consider to be the most expensive currency on the planet… “Time”!
I tend to suffer with the mental illnesses of depression and anxiety, and just a few days earlier Rolling Thunder Motorcycle Club came to St. Joe’s Veterans facility to bring us early Christmas gifts.
I had just come back from a home visit, so getting adjusted back into the fold of treatment was weighing heavy on my spiritual outlook. I felt distant and emotionless. I can’t tell you how, but their visit completely energized and lifted me out of the throes of despair. The gifts they brought us meant more to us than words can describe, especially to some of the guys who miss their families and can still remember how much addiction has taken us away from the very same families we love.
The greatest gift that day was… “Time”. The time it took to wrap presents for Veterans, the time and effort it took to travel and go out of their way to show us that we still had Value. That my friend was the spark that would shine the light in “The Night of the Dark Soul”.
On a spiritual level this is a season of spiritual depression in which one has to go through a detox, or purging, in order to experience enlightenment.
Now armed with a renewed sense of purpose and drive, we began our trip to the Rose Hill facility. Before we left, I recite a small prayer to make sure. God was with us as we traveled. I could sense some anxiety from Dr. O., my peers, and Shane (St. Joseph’s Director of Spirituality), who was pressed for time and had to make sure we got to our destination and back in a timely manner so he could facilitate his other treatment groups later in the day.
I knew then and there that we weren’t in control anymore and that we would have to rely on teamwork and a power greater than ourselves to get through the day successfully. As we began our journey over the rivers and through the woods, I can’t help but marvel at the beauty of the landscapes we were traversing; there were snowy mountains in the distance and pine trees still wet with the morning dew lining the highway. It was a damp sunless day, but it was still a beautiful sight. From the front seat I can hear my peers behind me rehearsing bits from our routine we plan to perform, as we get closer anxiety is turned into excitement.
We finally make it to the youth facility, and we are greeted by one of the counselors there. As we unload our equipment, we are led into the building and are greeted with hot cups of coffee and a place to set up for the presentation. The kids’ eyes light up once we start setting up our presentation, and just then I’m reminded of the joyous feelings I got when the motorcycle club came to see us.
Everything is all set up and we begin introductions, Dr. O. gives a brief introduction of our improv group and after that we begin with a short warm up. Everyone is standing in a big circle now wondering what’s about to happen. We do an exercise meant to get the person next to you to become mindful and grounded in the moment, it also helps to get the brain working and the blood pumping. After our warm-ups the kids take their seats, and we begin our improv acts. The kids are seeing how we develop scenes out of thin air and how we display a go-with-the-flow attitude. Even if we mess up, the whole point is to keep going with the flow. Life isn’t always scripted sometimes you’re going to have to adjust to the situations that come your way.
We wrap up or demonstration, and now it’s time for me to perform my songs of encouragement. I introduce myself really quick but it’s time to press play, it’s “go time!!” It’s been a while since I’ve performed my music in front of an audience, but it’s like riding a bike. The ability to share my gifts and talents with others never left me, it was just on pause until I had enough time to heal from self-doubt. In those few moments on stage in front of Rose Hill I learned one of my greatest lessons, and it’s the one thing I made sure I told them at the end of my performance, That no matter what you’ve been through or what you done YOU ARE VALUEABLE & LOVED.