“Like, I sleep on a mattress on my brother’s floor. It’s fucking ridiculous,” he says. He’s a substitute teacher and lifeguards in the summer months when things get slow. He tells me about the significant difference in school districts, and how teachers train from the best in Castro Valley and then move on to higher pay grades in Dublin. How awful it is that the highest rated schools have the lowest paid teachers. Somewhere in the conversation we shift from salaries to San Francisco. “I want to have a start-up,” he begins. He tells me about homelessness and how he wants to take down names and offer resources, “Like are you addicted to heroin? Okay, go here.” He wants to build a database, see a picture of the east bay. He knows some choose the life, but still . . . we should know that at least. He wonders aloud how to catalog the uncontained, “I mean do we just take their word for it?” His voice moves back into an excited rhythm, stronger than a current. He gesticulates as he talks and I begin to forget my pessimism towards his desire to come alongside a population that many have already judged conclusively in seconds. He comes back down to earth for a moment and smiles that Bruce Springsteen-esque grin, “Sorry for the tangent,” he says; and shakes off the adrenaline that comes with the intense desire to change a small corner of the world.
“I enjoyed my major but it was too much theory”, she says. She tells me that although she is grateful for her B.S. in psychology, she doesn’t feel like she was taught how to care for people. Frustrated with the narrative of diagnosis’s, she spills out the pain she has experienced through how problems are labeled in the world of psychotherapy, and how in turn, people are labeled. “I think it should start with, ‘you are a precious human being,’” she say deliberately and with conviction. She dances into her dream of opening an alternative spiritual counseling center. “I would want a place where I can just connect with people.” She tells me about the church she goes to in San Francisco. About how she prays over people. About how she sings over them. About how healing it can be to feel heard. How strongly she feels about separating the person from the problem. How when she says, “You are precious,” I know she means it and that her voice will echo in my brain until it can settle into my bones.