Meeting in the Margins:
An Invitation to Encounter Society's Invisible People

by Cynthia Trenshaw



She Writes Press, 2015. ISBN 978-1-631-52816-3.
Reviewed by Lee Ambrose
Posted on 07/22/2015

Nonfiction: Memoir; Nonfiction: Faith/Spirituality/Inspiration

Cynthia Trenshaw spent twenty years being taught by those she calls "the hidden teachers of the margins." Hers is a story of compassion, insight, touch, presence and reciprocity. It is also a call to action. Her story will touch readers' hearts in ways that go beyond most peoples' comfort zones. Few have been where Trenshaw dares to go. And of those who have gone to the margins, few have articulated for the rest of us the profound effect of sharing space and touch can have on both the giver and the receiver of such a sharing.

Trenshaw reminds us that "the margins, in their many varieties can be scary places to be." Not only are these oft times invisible, marginalized people living on slum streets, they can be found in prisons, nursing homes, hospitals, neighborhood parks, and even the darkened room next door. There are marginalized individuals in every community but they remain unseen by most. Trenshaw encourages readers to take steps to transform their "ordinary eyes" into "marginalized eyes"—eyes that make it possible to really see society's lost, lonely, or disadvantaged folks.

Through tender vignettes, the author takes us with her to the streets, the homeless encampments, and shelters where she practiced the art of caring touch: "street massage." Readers come to know some of her street clients' personal stories in ways that tug at the heartstrings. But more importantly, readers are challenged to examine their own reactions to such individuals—and, if necessary, adjust their thinking about them.

Exploring touch as science, sacrament and presence, Trenshaw is quick to point out that compassionate presence and skills such as intention and attention are necessary elements in any beneficial encounter—not just on the streets but in all settings where we are in the presence of the marginalized.

Trenshaw asks two difficult questions: "Why go there?" and "Do you dare?" She painstakingly shares learned insights to help answer both of these essential questions. Long after I finished reading this profoundly moving book, I find myself returning to her insight and the question of "Do you dare?" Trenshaw coaxes us to consider leaving our comfort zones and postures of inactivity to reach out and share the gifts of time, self and touch ... in a way that is reciprocal and potentially life changing.


Cynthia Trenshaw earned national certification as hospital chaplain and as massage therapist. She holds WA state certifications as professional guardian, guardian ad litem, and nursing assistant-registered. She holds a master's degree in theology (MTh) from Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley. Three of the chapters from Meeting in the Margins have been published in an anthology and a literary journal, and her essays and poetry have been published in a variety of magazines and journals over the past ten years. She blogs regularly on her website.

Check out our interview with the author of Meeting in the Margins.

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