Listening Post #6: Leaning Into Love

Blood pressure checks at the free Clinic may be routine, but they are not ordinary. This simple interaction, repeated over and over each day, is a ritual moment. There’s a feeling of the Holy to it.

Even otherwise noisy guests become silent, focused, calm as the cuff is wrapped tightly around an upper arm, gentle fingers press the diaphragm to an artery, and willing ears  intensely listen for that unmistakable  pulsing . For a few minutes, both patient and volunteer are unified in intense concentration on providing and hearing the evidence of life threading its way through  one’s arm hanging loosely in  the other’s tender grasp.

Guests come in regularly, just to have their blood pressure checked. This is a laudable act of health-consciousness, but is even more remarkable in a population of people who routinely disregard even more basic tenets of prophylactic self-care. But come they do; it’s clearly about much more than the numbers.

These are SomeBodies who have been smacked, punched, shot, shot-up, strip-searched, de-loused, raped,  kicked, stabbed, and spit on. Used and abused. But in the clinic, there is safety, trust that the touch received here is gentle, healing, and will do no harm. And so I watch as person after person leans into the experience, becomes perceptibly more serene, looks as if they have just had a warmed blanket thrown around their shoulders.

In a symbolic but real way, they have. The unconditional love communicated by this simple, caring touch warms the heart, thaws defensiveness, creates a tucked-in sense of   well-being, if only for awhile. It’s Love people lean into here, an altogether more powerful kind of medicine.

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-Arundhati Roy

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