Say Yes to the Dress
What would you add to this list of ways to avoid facing the uneasy truce we have with our unreconciled lives?
In the past few years, I have often noticed on my drive to work that my decision to take city streets instead of the freeway exposes me to many more of the struggles of fellow humans than I would see at high speed. In warm weather and cold, I leave my home very early. My husband’s early morning care giver has just left. The next one will arrive in two hours. He will be fed, showered, and shaved. There will be a nap before I get home late in the day. I will stop to buy food I can easily afford, prepare it in a great kitchen, have a great conversation, and wait for the late night aid to arrive.
But, on the trip to and from work, I will see the man limping down the street in tattered jeans. I will see the mom smiling into a blanket in which she carries her child, lifting her joyous, toothless face to watch for oncoming traffic before she crosses. I will see the boy huddled in a doorway, out all night, most nights. I will see the girl slip from between two commercial buildings, looking both ways before she crosses in a jacket better suited for summer than winter. The man with a six-pack in a sack, purchased just now, before 8:00, from one of the two open liquor outlets on one street. The teens waiting for their bus to school, work, anywhere — all somehow already looking hopeless, devoid of joy. No one talks.
I have enough clout to get services for the man; enough clothing to share with him. I have enough money to buy her teeth; enough time to let her know her baby is beautiful. I have enough room to house the boy and enough resource to find a jacket for the girl. I am smart enough to bring joy to the teens, getting them to talk if only about the crazy old white man.
I care enough to drive that way to work, to look for all of this humanity. I care enough to drive an eight year old high efficiency car. I care enough to be generous with all of the care givers in our home. I care enough to pay my staff well and advocate for their big lives. I care enough to tithe. I care enough to forgo vacations. I watch tough, thoughtful shows on TV. My work is consuming and consumed by caring. I care enough, but not enough to stop and listen to the people I refuse to avoid. I am a bystander watching poverty in a land of plenty.
My active caring is not enough to make the difference that is needed. I care, but do not interrupt the poverty. I see it, but am not a witness. I have not reconciled that. To do that, to find ways to be the difference, to find the way to care and live — care and win — I will likely need to address my feelings of powerlessness. I don’t think I need to care more or do more. I think I need to do smarter things.
And enlist you.