So long as I can remember, I always wanted to be able to be of some use, to help people somehow. Nothing unusual about that, nothing overly noble. For years I was fitful at it, didn’t have much sense of what that would look like. I crossed a good many things off the list, once I found that they didn’t seem particularly helpful. Eventually I caught on to what I thought it could be: I wanted to be able to do something about people’s suffering, right away. Not pharmaceutically, but metabolically. I wanted to be able to listen carefully to their stories, suss out the crossed wires and the crosshairs of their plight, thumb through the earth friendly therapeutics I’d learned in somber, enchanted places, from plant-blessed old people, fairly traded for and then some, and hand the afflicted what they needed to be able to love life again.

I have lived the lack of that all my adult life, and I’ll go to the ground with the feeling that perhaps I didn’t get close enough to my job. It’s turned out that I’ve spoken instead, listened and spoken. That’s how I’ve made my living. Later, I started writing some of it down, and made a bit more of a living with that. I’ve had some encouragement along the way, some amens, real appreciation. Lately I’ve been on the stage, had a band, travelled a good part of the world. All of it amounts to a privileged go of it, and I know I’m lucky. I’ve done a divisionary’s work.

Nobody along the way seemed to have noticed what I did: I may have missed the mark. Maybe I should have been behind a little counter, jars of help behind me, listening and then praying and then doling out, things getting better. Whose life did I get, I wonder? Who got mine?

An excerpt from the book, A Generation’s Worth: Spirit work while the crisis reigns, released July, 2021.

Stephen Jenkinson is the Harvard-educated creator of the Orphan Wisdom School, author of four books and a principal conjurer of the Nights of Grief and Mystery project, a musical/poetic contention with the rough Gods of our time.