Nestled deep in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey, the day is winding down, I am dozing and drifting surrounded by the sounds of the forest appreciating the moments of relaxation and reflection as I lay comfortably in my hammock on this late summer afternoon. It is mostly quiet here in the midst of the state forest where we are camped out in between our first two displays of the Send Silence Packing Fall 2017 tour. There is a stark difference here from the bustle of D.C. where we picked up the truck and prepped for departure. And different from our congested and energetic drive down crammed between NYC and Newark toward our second site visit along the Jersey shore.
Here amongst the pitch pines, oaks, and gums I reflect on the moments that speak to me on the tour. Returning for my second go with SSP, especially after our first display at Farleigh Dickenson, the moments come pouring back. The familiar sound of the back sliding door of the truck, clanking, unlatching, and rolling open to reveal the settled stack job and mound of green bags filled with the powerful story packs. The sight of a neatly manicured university lawn as we roll up in the truck first thing in the morning, sipping fresh coffee visualizing the transformation that will take place the next couple of hours. And of course there are the moments that speak so deeply to me.
The unpredictable and deeply moving moments of interaction when someone is inspired or invited to speak their story or share their truth. The moment someone allows themself to be seen, to be deeply open with the stranger that is me, to be transparent with emotion and vulnerability. It is the moment when a person for the third time walks through the display, a person drifting by the table, someone engrossed and connected to one of the many story packs, and then comes a slight pause and deep within their gaze there is an opening. It is a wish to be heard, a sometimes quiet desire to be witnessed. In these moments, if it feels right, if it feels safe to offer, an invitation is extended in the form of a hello, or a smile, or a brief question regarding some seemingly innocous thing.
What sometimes follows is an inspiring sharing of words, or tears, or smiles, and often all three. The moment that connects all the work, all the driving, all the unloading. And when these moments happen it all disappears around us as I settle into the precious space of awareness and witnessing the person who is opening and sharing. I am grateful to have the opportunity to be a part of these moments, grateful for this persons trust in themselves to share and be seen, and I am appreciative knowing there are many more moments like these in my near future as we settle into the Fall 2017 tour. These are the moments that move me the most. They are precious to me and are nothing less than a gift.
Rob Schicker is an adolescent mental health and substance abuse clinician currently on his second tour with Send Silence Packing.