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Its Only A Story - Go To Sleep
I was born in Texas in 1969. During my early childhood, in this area in which I am now raising my children, a campfire ghost story became popular suggesting that Bexar County Hospital (now University Hospital of San Antonio) experienced a string of odd deaths, "the patients dying systematically in room order - first 201 would go, then 202, 203, 204. The nurses and doctors were very suspicious, especially when patients began talking about a nurse in an old-style uniform. They watched the security tapes and saw the patients talking to someone when no one else was in the room. They were puzzled, until the next room in order was left empty. Then, the deaths stopped. There have been no more incidents since." This is the story I heard told around the fire at camp, more than once between 1976 and 1983, complete with flickering shadows and exaggerated pantomime sneaking on the part of the teller. Every year, the group of camp veterans knew what was coming and thrilled to intone spooky counting each time the next infanticide was about to occur, knowing that Bexar was not far from where we were about to bed down, leaving the lights on in our bunkhouse, having a hard time falling into sleep, only to be visited by nightmares.
Between 1977 and 1982 a woman named Genene Jones killed children, many children, while working as a licensed vocational nurse at Bexar in the pediatric intensive care unit. "A statistically improbable number of children died under her care. Because the hospital feared being sued, it simply asked all of its LVNs, including Jones, to resign and staffed the pediatric ICU exclusively with registered nurses. No further investigation was pursued by the hospital." She moved on to continue killing at Medical Center Hospital in 1981 and 1982. "Despite long-standing suspicions that Jones was a serial killer—other nurses called her hours on duty 'the Death Shift'—she was not charged in the hospital deaths during the original 1980s investigation. However, she was convicted in 1984 of using a paralyzing muscle relaxant to murder 15-month-old Chelsea McClellan. That crime occurred at a different medical institution, a small-town pediatric clinic where Jones went to work after being sent off from the San Antonio hospital with a good recommendation."
As an adult, I completed a Ph.D. in psychology with an emphasis in mythology, studying and teaching about the myths we live by and in, the ways that belief gestates as narrative and makes its way into both day and night life as mirroring belief and related behavior. "First 201...then 202, 203, 204..." The most frightening ghost stories are ones that are real. Have you ever been told that something with an essential message, even psychological truth, is "only a story?"
World Homeless Day falls on the tenth of October this year, and Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week in the USA happens from November eleventh through eighteenth. Many of us still have paid volunteer time available to put toward something that will make someone’s life better. I recommend volunteering at the Austin Street Shelter(1), if you live in the Dallas - Fort Worth area, and donating to it, if you live elsewhere, or finding a similar organization near you. Maybe that will make the world a more humane place. I don’t really know, but it would matter to me if I were on the street and you showed up to help me out, no matter your reasons or the statistical probability that doing so will Make A Difference. Does it matter how you feel and what you think about the homeless? Let’s see. It seems to me that Homelessness is a myth.(2)
I mean this not in the stereotypical way–a specious falsehood to be debunked by those accustomed to critical thinking. There is bunkum involved, for sure, in the political deployment of homelessness, but also in the habit of thought in which myths and myth itself are dismissed as fakery rather than imagined and heard as deeply true psychological fiction. Myths are confessions, the surfacing of extensive underlying patterns. These are often full of comedy and rueful discoveries, but are most often tragic as well as we face repetitive dilemmas to which contemporary industrial societies seem addicted.
Thought of as myth, the bones inside narratives of homelessness begin to protrude beneath the skin of projected strangeness that can hide what goes on the underside of what is visible. Imagined whole, myth is a unique genre of soul-revealing fiction which involves creative selection, omission, and stylization of experience which can be oversimplified and communicated to gain control of others’ thinking, as propaganda, or can increase the freedom of thought necessary for meaningful nuance, a more comprehensive understanding of complex subjects. Frequently, we weave our ideas about homelessness from notions inadequately examined and ill-considered when we could be telling a story for ourselves and others that accounts for the stereotypical while pointing towards truth and a turning toward an Everybody Wins scenario.
Just using the word “homeless” brings to mind traditional stories, often unexamined, passed down through generations, often informally but also as public policy, and which embody belief. “Embody” suggests in this case that belief is the root of behavior, so attention must be paid to how we believe and then act based on the stories felt in our “gut,” the felt sense of how life works that runs around in minds and out of mouths and into ears as discourse that works again to make up other minds.
For example, contrary to widespread misperceptions, "decades of epidemiological research reveals that [only] one-third [of folks without daily shelter], at most, have a serious mental illness." This is to say that they are much like the rest of the population. Abuse of drugs and alcohol “is rarely the sole cause of homelessness and more often is a response to it because [of] living on the street.” "Homeless persons are far more likely to be the victims of violence than the perpetrators…[and, while] more likely to [experience] criminal justice intervention,...this is primarily because many of their daily survival activities are criminalized…minor offenses such as trespassing, littering, or loitering." In general, “the descent into homelessness is not necessarily the direct result of [having made bad] choices. Far more often a sudden illness or an accident, losing one’s job, or falling into debt leads to eviction—or doubling up with family or friends becomes untenable.”(3)
The visibly unhoused don’t prefer life living rough, spend all their money on drugs or alcohol, live in unsanitary conditions because they don’t care, or “just need to get a job.” They work, still can’t afford shelter, and are not strangers–most often being from the community where they continue to be unhoused.(2) Perhaps most importantly, homelessness is an ongoing issue which lends itself to solutions which are readily available and essentially affordable at scale, lacking only the political will to achieve resolution.
Writing about diversity and inclusion in the Learning Pool North American Staff Newsletter of May 2022, I suggested that:
Just as learning to deal authentically with any kind of conflict requires admitting that conflict is normal and happens all the time, any time differences surface, so it is helpful to ask questions and look for diversity, equity, and inclusion needs anywhere there are humans and human-made systems today and wherever you are. The question is not "is that still a problem here" but, rather, "which persons are least visible and which voices are least audible in this space?"
Partly as a result of being unheard and pushed to the margin of visibility, for instance, from January to June 2022 in Northern Ireland,
8120 households presented as homeless. This was an increase of 9.6% on the previous six months when 7407 households presented. This figure, however, was lower than the equivalent period in 2021 when the number of presenters stood at 8624 (a fall of 5.84%)...The three council areas with the highest number of presenters per 1000 population were: Derry and Strabane (7.1 presenters per 1000); Belfast (6.6); and Mid and East Antrim (4.5)...3913 children were in temporary accommodation in July 2022 – a rise from 3763 in February 2022 (up 4%). In January 2019 2433 children were in temporary accommodation (up 60.8% since then.) (5)
I am very fortunate to enjoy a family system of support sufficiently robust such that my kin are in little danger of being on the street tomorrow. This was not always the case and could change at any time. Most of what is left of the working and “middle” classes are one major emergency away from the street. At least twice, a person who touched my life deeply has died in poverty, invisibly homeless nearby without my knowing until it was too late.
As any learning designer can attest, one of the essential qualities of mythic (belief-based behavioral) systems, or mythologies, is that story-making is behavior producing. A new story of compassion, recovery, and caring for the most vulnerable is not only a possibility but can result in a worldwide, significant reduction in poverty, lost futures, avoidable illness, and deaths within our lifetime. Our commitment must be to tell and act out that story, even if only in preparation for the next family of our acquaintance ending up in the street. In the meantime, if you or someone you know has a need for emergency accommodation in Northern Ireland, please call NI Housing Executive on 03448 920 908. The options in the United States are spread out and often difficult to navigate. Reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you need support to find assistance.
Learning Pool North America Newsletter May 2022
Homelessness statistics from the Department for Communities published in the latest edition of their homelessness bulletin for January to June 2022 (and also by Niall Bakewell of Homeless Connect on Sep 15, 2022). https://homelessconnect.org/latest-homelessness-statistics-published-for-ni/
About the author:
Brandon Williamscraig Ph.D. is proud to be a Learning Pool Customer Support Manager in Dallas, Texas. He is twenty four years a spouse, father of two children ten and twelve years of age, taught psychology to graduate students once upon a time, now teaches aikido and Conflict Done Well online and in-person during his off hours, and loves anything having to do with teamwork (working through conflict and building creative communities). Please reach out, if you’d like to talk further. https://www.linkedin.com/in/bdwilliamscraig/
"...Thank you for teaching and guiding me and [my daughter]. It was at times challenging to learn the techniques remotely (and I’m sure it was challenging for you to teach too), but we learned that Aikido is a way of life. And the wisdom that you shared with us along the training [has] been tremendously helpful for me, especially when I encounter challenging situations with my family and at my workplace. The key phrases and movements will stay with me, and I’m quite sure that they’ll guide me at difficult times."
Montessori Guide (teacher), Japanese born, language and traditional dance Sensei, Martial Nonviolence Assitant Instructor
"The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice."
“Power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.”
"The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate. So it goes. Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that."
A favorite related story referred to in the Wikipedia article https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aeschylus
During his presidential campaign in 1968, Senator Robert F. Kennedy quoted the Edith Hamilton translation of Aeschylus on the night of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. Kennedy was notified of King's murder before a campaign stop in Indianapolis, Indiana, and was warned not to attend the event due to fears of rioting from the mostly African-American crowd. Kennedy insisted on attending and delivered an impromptu speech that delivered news of King's death. Acknowledging the audience's emotions, Kennedy referred to his own grief at the murder of Martin Luther King and, quoting a passage from the play Agamemnon (in translation), said: "My favorite poet was Aeschylus. And he once wrote: 'Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, until in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.' What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence and lawlessness; but is love and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or whether they be black ... Let us dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world." The quotation from Aeschylus was later inscribed on a memorial at the gravesite of Robert Kennedy following his own assassination.
Longest Day 2022 The Spirit of the Woods
As part of Learning Pool's #TheLongestDay team in 2022, Brandon Williamscraig read "The Spirit of the Woods" by Anushri Nair (Netherlands, age 12) from "Tall Tales Short Stories," the volume created by Learning Pool to raise funds for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Dr. Williamscraig then lead a brief discussion about the nature of mythology and psychology, and offered brain health tips.
To donate to the Alzheimer's Association, please visit https://act.alz.org/site/TR/?px=20807047&pg=personal&fr_id=15144
International Day of Love aka Peace
John ODonohue - Birthday Blessing
Appreciating the people who have always helped me to be. This John O'Donohue was a gift from my mom this morning.
Blessed be the mind that dreamed the day
The blueprint of your life
Would begin to glow on earth,
Illuminating all the faces and voices
That would arrive to invite
Your soul to growth.
Praised be your father and mother,
Who loved you before you were,
And trusted to call you here
With no idea who you would be.
Blessed be those who have loved you
Into becoming who you were meant to be,
Blessed be those who have crossed your life
With dark gifts of hurt and loss
That have helped to school at your mind
In the art of disappointment.
When desolation surrounded you,
Blessed be those who looked for you
And found you, their kind hands
Urgent to open a blue window
In the gray wall formed around you.
Blessed be the gifts you never notice,
Your health, eyes to behold the world,
Thoughts to countenance the unknown,
Memory to harvest vanished days,
Your heart to feel the world's waves,
Your breath to breathe the nourishment
Of distance made intimate by earth.
On this echoing-day of your birth,
May you open the gift of solitude
In order to receive your soul;
Enter the generosity of silence
To hear your hidden heart;
Know the serenity of stillness
To be enfolded anew
By the miracle of your being.
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Appreciating your time, excellent energy, and good intentions,
The Culturesmith Team