I had a strange experience the other day. The landline in my NYC sublet had intermittently stopped working, for days on end. No dial tone, or a strange sound of static, or a faint message about a receiver being off the hook (I only have one.) I made many calls to Verizon, had periods of false hope only to see the phone go again, and ended up with the cell phone number of the repairman.
I was sitting in my apartment one of the mornings the phone had again died. I was writing, and deeply absorbed, when the doorbell rang.
In a somewhat dazed state I answered it, only to discover, much to my surprise, two policemen standing there. "Are you ok ma'm?" one said. "Sure," I replied. "No one is bothering you?" the second one asked, as he peered around me to look into my tiny studio. "No, of course not," I said. "Well, we got a call saying there was trouble here."
Astounded, I said "Here?" They repeated the details of my address and apartment number. I was completely befuddled. One policeman asked, "Could you have pressed 911 by mistake?" "On the phone?" I asked. "The phone isn't even working. It hasn't worked all morning."
That immediately seemed to clear it up for them. "Oh, the wires must have been crossed with someone else's phone." They turned to leave, when it suddenly struck me, "Wait. Someone called for help. You're here instead. Someone needs you. I hope you can find them."
I was filled with sadness and worry. Who was she? Where was she? I felt like my heart had been pierced right through. I called the Verizon repairman, and asked him to try and find the number that had apparently gotten mixed up with mine. I meditated and prayed for her. I ached for the vulnerability of all of us, for our longing to be safe and happy, and for how little we can count on in the ungovernable shakiness of every single day. I thought about the fear and the uncertainty and the betrayals and the violence that so many suffer, every single day.
I pondered the nature of awareness, and love, and the refuge from within they provide even in an uncertain world. I pondered our need to be loved, and how we can look for happiness and love in all the wrong places, over and over again. I pondered the incredibly strange strands of connection that had brought the haunting sense of this woman to my life. We really are all interconnected, even if we don't easily see it all of the time. We really all should be committed to taking care of one another - we're not even six degrees of separation away. We're barely one crossed wire away. We need to pay attention to one another. We need to value one another, no one left out.
When the phone worked again and I could access voicemail the only message was a much earlier one from the police dispatcher, reassuring me that the police car had pulled up in front of my building. Then it all reshuffled in my mind. "How brave' I thought. "How incredibly true and brave to call for help." I hope, beyond words, that she got some.
I know any woman I pass on the streets could be that woman, any woman I meet in the elevator or in a meditation class could be that woman. Anybody reading this could be that woman. I hope that all of us, of any age or gender, when we are hurt or being hurt, can ask for help. I hope that all of us, of any belief system or ethnicity, can see some of ourselves in one another, and help provide a safe haven for one another in life's storms. I hope that all of us, of any background or circumstance, can look beyond our differences and see how fundamentally connected we all are.