Since this blog is about health issues, I'm writing about a woman I knew when she was a medical student, pursuing her degree in women's medicine. As I do, she also believes in holistic health care. She believes the body has the capacity to heal itself, given the right conditions, including proper rest and nutrition. Jeannie was one of my favorite Haitian co-workers. Also one of the most exasperating, at times. Intelligent, educated, and articulate, she could be a total space cadet, no doubt because she had to juggle many tasks, drive many miles, and wear many hats.
For about a year we worked the graveyard shift together in the same retail sweatshop, abused by the same psycho boss. When things got too intense, I broke into song--singing We Shall Overcome-- really badly. My creaky voice could always get a laugh out of Jeannie. Another much persecuted co-worker liked to sing the one about the cotton fields back home. But if we didn't have workplace justice, we at least had each other, and we talked about all kinds of things, much to the irritation of Psycho Boss. The last thing bosses like this want to see is workers sticking together.
One night after another tongue lashing, Jeannie had finally had enough of the abuse and she walked out. Thereafter, she devoted herself full time to her studies and her medical internship. We continued to talk on the phone-- for hours, sometimes.
She was a devout Catholic, while I aspire to the path of Zen (with no road map, I might add).
Something Jeannie told me on the phone one day I'll never forget.
She said: "We are all born free. God wants us to be free."
It was heavy statement, because it made me face the reality that if I were truly free, I would have quit the sweatshop too. A long time ago. Wage slavery is not God's work. It doesn't even serve humankind.
What made me stay under those conditions, for as long as I did, I can't say. If it was about money, then why did I struggle always to pay the bills? I could say it was for the fear of unemployment, but if you live your life imprisoned by fear you might as well be dead, because you are not free.
If it's true that you "make the road by walking," (attribution unknown) then I make my path by walking...
Disclaimer: This is a work of creative non fiction. Any resemblance to actual persons/bosses is purely coincidental.