A Torch

You’re probably wondering
why I’m still kind.

It was strangers who were kind to me
when I was lowest,

dirtiest, ugliest,
taking least care of myself,

who showed me the light of kindness;
the torch it can be in the dark.

Who would want mental illness?
So few have the resources to treat it.

Who would like some spaghetti?
I’ve got enough here for an army.

Notes from the interview that inspired this poem:

She told me about her brother, two years younger, who’d died a few weeks prior from complications of COVID-19. He’d had a hard life. In college, he’d become afflicted with schizophrenia. Their immigrant parents had little education and few resources, and with no diagnosis or support he’d had to drop out. He soon left home, living on the streets for a year. Eventually, he’d been hospitalized, then institutionalized. He got better. Still, the sickness had taken a toll on his body. He was diagnosed with an auto-immune disease. His kidneys weakened and began to fail. Despite so many hardships, he went back to college and studied to be a social worker. He was great at it–he saw himself in the people he served, and he worked as a case manager for years. At his memorial service, his kindness was the thing people remembered most about him. “I want to be more like him,” she said. “I want to carry the torch.”

Interviewee: Anonymous, Educator
Listener Poet: Frankie Abralind

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