It has been an exciting week for the Path of Freedom in Massachusetts! On Tuesday we met with the management of the Pine St. Inn, a wonderful organization catering to the needs of Boston’s homeless – providing housing, food, emergency services and job training to those in need. We are hoping to work the Path of Freedom into some of their existing programming, as our illustrious Massachusetts volunteers have recently done at the Haley House, and The St. Francis House – where Fleet and I had the privilege of witnessing a graduation ceremony on Friday.
One by one, the nine graduates stood up, received their diplomas, and said a few words. They spoke of getting out of prison, of getting sober, of getting a good job, of making friends with themselves. They praised the MAP (moving ahead program) teachers and curriculum, a 14 week intensive employment program, which we have folded the Path of Freedom into. They thanked the teachers there for the “tough love” they had given, in training them for employment, and for a new life. Several of the participants remarked specifically abouth the Path of Freedom, which though it was just a few hour per week part of their all-encompassing employment-plus program, seemed to have a great influence on them. One said that the PoF helped him “come out of his shell,” and later on another man agreed with this statement. The meditation, they said, “really helps.” The speeches were inspiring all around, and the tears were flowing. An older man, with a deeply lined, world-weary face summed it up for me, quoting Walt Whitman: “Do I contradict myself? Very well then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.”
After the ceremony, in which Fleet offered a brief talk and meditation, and the executive director of St. Francis House gave some beautiful words of encouragement, we shuffled over to another room for lasagna and salad. Everyone we met there, from the participants to the teachers, to the staff and administrators, seemed very positive about the Path of Freedom, and hopeful about the prospects of expanding it to more of their classes. Their mission is to help folks find meaningful work, in the service of living a meaningful life of contribution. Some kind of mindfulness training, like the Path of Freedom, seems to fit in quite snugly with this mission, offering tools for the workplace, for transformation, for life. I am deeply inspired by the participants in these programs, working to better their lives, and by the tireless work of organizations like the St. Francis House, The Haley House, & The Pine St. Inn, serving those who have much to offer, yet need a helping hand.