Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Love More





Perfect October day, one of the bright blue ones with fluffy clouds straight out of kindergarten drawings. I half expect to see the sun turn chrome yellow, show a bunch of straight rays, and wink a crayoned eye at me. The ravens are playing their autumn games (tumble, toss, and chatter) and the first flocks of robins are arriving. All is as right with the world, for a moment, as something from a nice Victorian poem.

There was a lot of activity in the quiet corners of my world when I walked out with my dog into the morning air. Trucks, workers, people rushing about in their early tasks.

So I didn’t betray her, as she sat carefully concealed, holding her dog at her side. And for once my dog didn’t betray her either—no sudden barking, no dancing joyful greeting. We slipped by, as quietly as possible. I knew her from other encounters, when she showed up exhausted and pale and asked for a glass of water, having walked miles in the hot sun. Today we met each other’s eyes, nodded, and I walked on.

But what sort of world is it, I thought, where a fragile young woman seeks the shelter of a bush and is afraid to be seen?

It’s a strange world we live in, where these days signs get posted inviting people to get out of town immediately, where people are referred to, routinely, as trash, bums, lowlifes, drifters.

And where people like my young friend live with the constant threat of losing their belongings, their companion animals, & sometimes their freedom.

And sometimes their lives.

The man on the phone who promised terrible things would happen was unashamed and gave me his name along with his threats. Others have been less self assured, or less open, though the threats and suggestions have been fairly lethal, a vigilante escalation of rhetoric. And sometimes of action—a disabled man screamed at and shot with paintballs, veterans told “we don’t want your kind”, children met with insult and hatred.

The town I live in is about 4 blocks long, embraced by the hills and river. Blue skies, clear air, a community so small that when my youngest wandered I knew he would be returned to my arms safely by a neighboring shopkeeper or worker or one of my friends on the street. A place wrapped in kindness. Or so I thought. And so I still hope.

I was sweeping my porch the other evening when one of my young travelling friends said “hey, can I ask you a question?” as he filled his water bottle. “Sure,” I said, wondering what was coming up. The question he asked me made me pause, confused, not sure what to say at all. “Why are you so kind?” he asked. I felt embarrassed, unworthy, and stammered “I’m not really, not all that kind”. I am well aware of my impatiences and my times of needing to be away, away from the bandaging of hurt hands and the psychic bandaging of hurt hearts, I know I am not always joyful as I meet each need or question. My friend persisted. “Why do you care? Why do you care so much?” I said “it’s human to care. We are connected. We all care about each other, don’t we?”

No, he said. No, most people don’t care.

I’ve sat with that question a lot, turning it this way and that. Cause I’m not a saint and I’m not particularly special; I’m a pretty ordinary, aging woman. But yes, I care, and I care deeply, and I think I care because…there is no reason in the world not to care, and so many reasons to do so. Because when I hear someone cry in pain I have to run to help. Because when someone is hungry my stomach tightens. Because what hurts someone else hurts me, a lot, and I really don’t do well with pain. I care because I’m awfully selfish and I want to walk out in the October sun with my dog and feel good. Despite everything I know, and I know some terrible truths, just as anyone in this frail life of ours, on a changing planet does.

So I listen. And I do what I can, whether that’s providing a bit of food or a blanket or a bit of respite or a bandage or a motherly exhortation to get to the clinic or a phone call or a handful of food for a skinny dog. My partner, who has been known to give away the shirt he’s wearing (I laugh at him, he is a cliché, but a great one) says he just does what he does because it’s easier. And he doesn’t want to face people who are desperate when he could help. He claims to be practical, a pragmatist. I’m not so logical, but, yeah, I’m lazy. And trust me, it is much easier to be kind.

Besides, once upon a time I read a lot of stories, and there were some that stuck in my childish heart. Someone said that he had been hungry, and unfed, and naked, and no one came to give him clothes. And in jail, and no one bothered to check on him there, and so sick and alone and no one seemed to care.

I was ten. I was gravely troubled. I had never met a hungry person or a naked, cold one, or someone in jail. I had visited relatives in the hospital, so I felt clear on that one. But the others…I worried a great deal that I would never figure out how to reach those people. No worries now, half a century later, abundance flows through..including abundant opportunities to reach out a kind hand.

And sure, the phone calls and the threats sometimes give me pause. But such opportunity, such interesting lessons. We are here such a very short while. Our time together is a quick time. It’s like a childhood run through the autumn leaves, a snowfall that we thought would last forever, that friend we always thought we’d finally tell things to.

The shaky treehouses I built as a girl fell to pieces long ago. Many of my friends are dead now; David, who walked with me to school, the woman who was a mentor and friend and love for decade upon decade. People I knew a moment and people I loved a long while. It’s all over so very quickly.

I think we have to love each other, and this lovely planet. And if that doesn’t work, I think we have to love more.


6 Comments:

Blogger Sabine said...

There is no other way. You've said it.

1:42 PM, October 09, 2012  
Blogger am said...

Yes.

4:28 PM, October 09, 2012  
Blogger Lucy said...

I suppose I've tended to fear for you from someone whom you helped, stupidly it didn't occur to me you'd be in more danger from others who hated your helping them, I suppose that must tell me something. Please take care of yourself too.

Forgive me asking, but is it usual for such a small town to have such a number of vulnerable people as yours does, or is it something about the location? I don't think it is entirely that I'm in denial, or avoiding contact with them, I know there are homeless and hurting souls around even in our quiet backwater, and in other parts of this country there are plenty, but I think one would be pushed to find so many in a similar rural area hereabouts... I don't think I'm being unreal. We've seen documentaries about people living in tent cities in small town America, in the sewers under Las Vegas etc, is it truly so endemic?

Sorry to intrude with a crass, prosaic question, when you've said such heart-wrenching things so beautifully; I suppose it's I'm questioning myself, I know I could never love the world as fiercely as you do, say what you will, you do have a special gift of heart and courage, I think, as well as of words.

12:26 PM, October 10, 2012  
Blogger jarvenpa said...

@Lucy... I hear of the rise in the numbers of vulnerable people all through the country, but in my area we are close to the major highway that runs all up and down the Pacific Coast, from Mexico to Canada. I think this may increase the flow; also there is still that California dream; I see many kids from the south and from the midwest coming for what they hope is a better opportunity. And so many of the older folks..veterans and such..end up here because the winters, while difficult, are nothing like the far north or the midwest.
And I'm in a remarkably good position to meet and get to know people who otherwise might simply slip past, invisible.
You know, I don't think I've ever feared my street friends, even when they were violent or badly disturbed. But I have come close to fear with some of my sheltered community people who call for violence against the travelers and those who try to help them. Even then, though, I don't rest in fear--it's just not a comfortable stopping point.

1:06 PM, October 10, 2012  
Anonymous atma said...

I take great comfort in your words and example. Makes me look into my own heart. I don't think I've been described as kind. Something I need to work on...

Thank you!

2:16 AM, October 15, 2012  
Blogger ocean lady said...

You may be one of the least ordinary people I know Kathy. I'm straining, but I can hardly think of anything you do just like most others. Perhaps your morning coffee? But even that comes laced with poetic observation and kindness. I have ever been grateful to the universe to have put you in it and then crossed our paths.

1:47 AM, November 08, 2012  

Post a Comment

<< Home