Shashi Tusken answers the question:
What is the nicest thing a non-family member has ever done for you?
Wow. Well, when I first thought about this question, a couple of different things came to mind, but one really stood out for me in a big way. My dearest friend, I would have to say like a sister to me, her name is Beloved Heartsong and she lives in Mount Shasta, California. And long ago, gosh, I guess it was maybe 10 or even 11 years ago, I was having a really hard time for a variety of reasons in my life. My income was waning, I was in a relationship that was definitely not working, it felt like everything was falling apart, just literally every part of my life — and I felt like the only things I had were an old Jeep Cherokee that was leaking oil terribly and whatever I could fit in it. Although I did have a storage unit somewhere, but that didn't really feel like it was part of the picture.
And I had been in Mount Shasta camping the whole summer, and towards the end of the summer at the Blackberry Festival, actually on Labor Day, I had a total meltdown. It was pretty much everything just crashed and burned all at once, and I had only seen or met Beloved maybe two or three times before, and I don't remember exactly what it was, but... Oh, I actually do remember. She called me at the worst moment possible and I'm just crying and in my car that's leaking oil and not at all feeling festive about the Blackberry Festival. And it just felt like everything was going wrong, and she invited me over for lunch, and she was making her famous tortilla soup, which I have to say is the best tortilla soup I've ever had. And I didn't even want to go because I didn't want to share that much of my own drama, pain, sorrow, wherever I was at the time. I was 46 and it was just, it was a meltdown moment, but I decided to go anyway. I don't know why I did that because that wasn't in character for me. I normally wouldn't share that way.
And I went and we sat there, and of course after about three sips of delicious soup, I fell apart and just shared all of what was going right and wrong. And I didn't... I hardly knew her, I had met her at three events over the course of the summer. And she looked at me and she took a deep breath and she said, "Don't worry about any of it. Stay…” it's going to make me cry… she said, "Stay here. I have an extra room. I have enough resources for both of us.” She had a beautiful house then and she had recently moved there from North Carolina. She said she had enough of everything. She even had some extra clothes, we're about the same size. It was remarkable. And I suddenly felt completely held, cared for, like I had found family that I don't really have here in California. It was, yeah, it is going to make me cry, it was astonishing and amazing, and I had never experienced anyone else's generosity in that way.
And I took her up on it actually, and I did stay there. I stayed for about nine months, maybe a little bit longer, which is of course perfect. And she even gave me some money for a while, while I was looking for a job, but I ended up finding a great job there in Mount Shasta as a massage therapist and was able finally to pay rent and get back on my feet and make everything work. And we've been super close friends, like family ever since. I've also been a chef and a caterer, so she did a lot of workshops and I cater her workshops, and we became instant family — out of just meeting three times and one hysterical lunch, and the rest is history. And I love her dearly with all of my heart, and I've done everything I can since then to offer others that kind of generosity when someone comes to me in need or when I feel I have the resources to share as openly as she shared with me.
Shashi Tusken is the Senior Production Manager for Summits for The Shift Network.