Posted in Live, Love

The Fear Beyond Every Other

“How can you frighten a man whose hunger is not only in his own cramped stomach but in the wretched bellies of his children? You can’t scare him–he has known a fear beyond every other.” (Steinbeck)

As I ponder this quotation, the flip side of all that my daily affirmations about prosperity and abundance are meant to quell, there are so many images and experiences, so many human faces that come to mind.

I have lived on the outskirts of a trendy, up-scale part of a city in a resource-rich first-world country surrounded by those who make their life on the street. Homeless, poor, mentally ill, dependent on handouts and charitable offerings, they know all too well the tight rumblings of a cramped stomach. Approached several times each day for money, coffee or food, I have insulated myself from fully experiencing this overwhelming human need.

While I made my charitable contributions and gave apologies with as much eye contact and humanity as I could spare, this response became more repetitive and rehearsed than I would like; more frequent than should ever be necessary.

Indicating that I don’t carry cash or change, I was never fully satisfied with these awkward lose-lose human exchanges. While I have offered the coffee I am drinking (asking if it would offend) or the lunch I’ve packed, these are the exceptions that bring all kinds of sensations to heart, mind, and soul. To give in a way that offers dignity and discretion is important but this, my conscience reminds me, is the exception.

Intuitive by nature and nurture, an idealistic INFJ on the Myers-Briggs perosnality type indicator, I am very much a student of human life. I know that there are no simple answers and that few things in life are black and white. Even as I write this, I am well aware of the very proud and well put together homeless person who has asked for an early morning cup of water and used the washroom at the coffee shop where I now write. Friendly, affable, colour-coordinated, he is literally ripe with the smell of human need, seeking only to freshen up in the coffee shop washroom as he only gets a free shower ever couple of days at the neighbourhood outreach centre just a block from my home.

Leading a fairly simple and cost-efficient life and giving what I can when I can, I wrestle with the notion that no amount of my suffering or going without will quell the seemingly endless need around me. So many of us, from billionaires to university professors to coffee shop baristas who study and work an extra job or two, all wrestle internally or externally with poverty consciousness—our ability to find deep inner trust in the abundance of life in its myriad of forms. Whether looking at myself in the mirror or into the eyes of those I truly and deeply see each day, I am motivated more than ever to shine my light–not hold back with a well-intentioned fear of having or getting that will negatively impact those with the greatest need.

Whether the light of daily eye contact, words of love, empathy, and encouragement, charitable donations, or an informed vote for wise and compassionate political leaders, I can always give from abundance, trusting that this (and so much more) will come back to me. With good-hearted awareness, I must release all notions of holding onto a fear-based “mini-me”–the formerly struggling, striving, and inferior-feeling “inner child” who is reluctant to take his full and generous place in the world.

Instead, I sign off for today with great, abundant, luxurious dollops of love, empathy, and encouragement,


Kalen Marquis is the therapist, educator and human bean who founded Kwil.Club with frizzy-fuzzy, green-nosed Kwil. He is a registered clinical counsellor in private practice in New Westminster, BC. He has more than two decades of experience as a teacher, teacher-librarian and school counsellor.