"It sometimes happens that someone likes somebody," he said with an assuring lilt in his voice that spread from the generous smile on his lips, to the set of his chiseled face, and upward to the sparkling kindness in his eyes. I looked into those eyes, and the truth of that statement moved through my mind. I knew he knew this was true.

He had always known. For the first time in my life I was looking at a white person who I could tell knew I was likable, knew I was okay. I kept looking and crying. My mind kept offering up this truth: here sits a white man who knows I am equal to any other human being in the world. It was an almost indescribable feeling, unlike any I had felt before.

I cried through layers of feelings that came from being a black woman raised in the South.(*) As I wept, it felt like cobwebs were being shredded in an old dark place in my mind that I had given up on. I could look at him and for once not have the shield up that had protected me.

At last I could feel a bit of relief, a bit of hope. "Keep going," he would say when my discharge slackened. I cried and cried, like never before, with my attention on the reality of "it sometimes happens that someone likes somebody," while he just smiled at me with delight.

That was my first discharge time with Harvey Jackins, when I met with him during my first Intensive at Personal Counselors in 1996. I had met him for the first time when my friend, Anne White, and I tentatively entered Personal Counselors that Monday morning. As we stood in the waiting area, a man came into the room carrying a big pumpkin. He greeted us kindly, said someone would be in soon, and went on his way with the pumpkin. A kind and ordinary human is how I remember him. A human who could tell that every person was human and deserved respect, no matter who they were or what the results of their hurts.

Each time I came to Personal Counselors for an Intensive, I had some discharge time with Harvey. During my third Intensive he told me to keep in touch with him via daily e-mail. For the next six weeks I e-mailed him every morning and he answered back the same day. I would sit at my computer and fight distress about visibility, about significance. I would sit and cry and shake until I could get a sentence or two out and sent. But I did it, and it was largely because of what I could remember about him and that first session.

When he died, I truly felt and knew I had lost a friend. But I will never lose the precious first experience of looking into his eyes and noticing that he knew I was okay. I did not tell him the content of my thoughts in that first session, but in June 1999 I sent him the last e-mail and told him. I thanked him for giving me a bit of hope about racism.

Marion Ouphouet
New York City, New York, USA

(*) The South means the southeastern part of the United States.


Last modified: 2016-08-22 02:11:22-07