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.
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
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.
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?
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.
where people like my young friend live with the constant threat of losing their
belongings, their companion animals, & sometimes their freedom.
sometimes their lives.
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.
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.
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?”
he said. No, most people don’t care.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
think we have to love each other, and this lovely planet. And if that doesn’t
work, I think we have to love more.