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She is my Friend

by Les Reading

Alissa is originally from West Fargo, North Dakota and has been living in Redding for the past six years. She is a delight to talk with. She is autistic (proudly so) and has quite a lot to say about it. She has bright blue eyes and she’s a good conversationalist.

Alissa and I took an ACE test together (Adverse Childhood Experiences) with my friend Rodney (who was once a pastor among the poor in Costa Rica.) Roughly speaking, this test tells gives you a score of 0 – 10 to tell you how much baggage you probably have from a troubled childhood. Rodney got a 0 (a perfectly clean score), I got a 6 (I have a lot of old baggage to deal with) and Alissa got a 9. Some say that if you have an 8 or higher, then you are probably in prison! But Alissa is different. She’s a survivor.

If you know Alissa, you know that she plays the cello. She’s a rare natural musician and she is very, very good. For her, playing the cello is her love language. She had a good “gig” playing the cello at the casino but then Covid-19 came and the rest is history.

To reach back into her past relationships … well, that’s pretty scary. Alissa gives her heart and her trust too readily, but with her family history it sort of makes sense. Her mother abandoned her standing by the road to “…wait for the white van to come and pick you up. I don’t want to be your mother anymore.” When you hear something like that then all your words sort of dribble out on the floor. I may be ACE-6 but Alissa is a true ACE-9. She may be homeless, but she is stronger than the rest of us.

The one thing Alissa could hold on to in all her traumatic childhood was Mrs. Klundt, her music teacher. Mrs. Klundt taught Alissa how to play the cello from the 6th to the 12th grade. She gave Alissa something to live for, a place to pour out her heart when life didn’t make sense.

Alissa says, “She never treated me as if I’m stupid.” Trust me: Alissa is not stupid. She’s a really good survivor with a truck load of emotional scars that would break most people.

She has her electric cello (she’s planning for an acoustic one someday) and she plays at weddings and other events when she can make a connection. She recalls playing for one of Kristen Schreder’s events some time ago (Alissa says, “Hi Kristen!!”).

Alissa speaks: “I’m very surprised about the changes in the City Council’s approach to the homeless and I am grateful. Thank you for remembering us.”

Alissa hasn’t seen a home in 10 years. She is my friend. She is one of ours. She makes me cry.


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