Life at the Margins

Looking through the New York Times Best Books from the past decade, I find a book I want to read called The Places in Between by Rory Stewart (  Checking to see if our local public library has it, I come across other books about the in between, including one about the undocumented immigrant experience.

It reminds me that when we are living at the margins – close to exclusion but barely staying a part of , by the skin of our teeth (where does that saying come from?), that we are forgetting perhaps that we are actually at a place in between one society and another.  Twilight and sunrise are times in between, with the light of night coming and then going, the light of day leaving and arriving. Many of us love the quality of light then; it even has a special word, gloaming.  It seems to have a magical quality reminding us that what we see and experience is transitory, always giving way to something else.

But life in the margins may instead feel more like the quality of light in the night close to the earth’s poles, when the experience of night never completely comes and the light never completely leaves.

When we are living on the margins for some reason, a major life change causing dislocation, poverty or addiction causing loss of society and the basics needed to live and function, we may be literally between life and death.  Being a functioning part of society and meeting societal obligations brings life; lack of food and shelter, deep despair and hopelessness bring death.  Moments, days, years we linger at the margins, watching others seemingly fully in the stream of society and life pass us by, in our invisibility. Many despair at there being anything in life left for them.  But then the world turns; life changes.  A new day starts and new possibilities suddenly emerge from the dark.  Margins become transitory between places in which we reside until new life springs up.

Perhaps being in the margins would be less emotionally draining if we were to recognize it not as a marginal time, but as a between time.  A new world awaits its birth in the moment when a little light breaks free.

I recognize that this may not be the same for those living with chronic and unremitting problems like permanent kinds of disabilities.  Maybe like life closer to the poles, change comes more slowly when some of major life circumstances are static.  Rather than daily cycles of light, the cycles become more like seasons.  Still change will come.  Marginal life is not static. Although its lows feel everlasting, they are not.  The world turns; the sun shines.

Story of my life is somehow here.  My concerns are always for those at the margins; my research interests too.  This morning I am letting the between become a breakthrough thought for me.  Not people living at the margins, but in between.  In between what this world offers and what the world is yet to offer as it continues to spin.  Let me be part of the turn towards better life, more hope, more joy in my life and in my efforts to help others live better lives.