Tuesday, 21 February 2017

'Psst. This Is A Test.'

I thought I might have failed a test yesterday.  I was approaching the entrance to my local supermarket when an elderly black woman came up to me and said something, that I didn’t understand, but could figure the meaning of: she wanted a handout.  It goes on all the time in this neighborhood.  I couldn’t believe it when I first moved here, nearly five years ago now: all the beggars and homeless.  The latter curl up in their sleeping bags, starting even in the mid-afternoon, in doorways, or even just on the edge of the sidewalk, all over the place.  Maybe I have lived in a spiritual community too long - have been ‘out of touch’ with this reality for some 30 years now.  I feel a little like Siddhartha Gautama must have, when, in leaving the sheltered life of his royal compound and venturing out into the life of the village itself, he was appalled at what all he found there: the same sort of thing, I imagine.*  

I pretty much automatically shook my head, and went on in to the supermarket, to do my meager shopping.  Sometimes I ‘pony up’ something in that sort of situation; sometimes I don’t.  It’s a hit-and-miss sort of thing with me.  (I can’t give every time - impossible.  And then there’s the argument: ‘It only encourages them’; etc.  You know the score.)  But this time I got to thinking, while doing my shopping, that maybe I shouldn’t have been so automatic in my response; and I looked for her after my meager shopping - did i mention that?? - with a dollar bill ready, to contribute to yet another worthy cause.  But she had left.

Was that a test? I wondered, as I made my way home, in the dark of the evening coming on.  And it got me to thinking further.

It got me to thinking of the choices that we are constantly bombarded with in life.  And specifically as for this particular one - of giving a handout to a needy person or not (Will they just spend it on booze?  Cigarettes??  Drugs???…) - I can think of a number of responses.  Three come to mind.  No, actually four.  No; actually five.  You can just flat-out say No every time.  (Especially when you are on a meager income already.  Did I - yes, I did.)  You can choose to donate to, say, every fourth such an encounter on your path, and Path.  You can ‘donate’ on an intuitive basis, as you are prompted inwardly.  You can donate to everybody who crosses your path in life - and be wiped out by it, to the point even of suicide.  (‘I could have, should have, done more!!’)  Or you can do what the man in the story did, as told by the Prevention magazine editor, many years ago, as a statement of their philosophy.  The story goes that one day a man is walking beside a large stream when he hears a cry for help coming from it.  He looks over and sees a small child, caught in the flow, struggling and calling for help.  Quickly he takes off his shoes and dives in, and swims out, and gets hold of the child, and drags it to the side of the small river, recovering his breath.  Whereupon he hears another cry for help, emanating from the river.  He looks over, and there is another small child, struggling and crying for help.  He dives in again, and swims out to this child, and gets hold of it, and drags this one to the bank of the river as well.  Whereupon he hears another cry for help…

Just then another adult comes walking by, and he tells that person: ‘You dive in and save that child.  But I’m going upstream and getting the s.o.b. who’s throwing these kids in.’   

My life, at this time, is dedicated to the equivalent of getting the s.o.b. who’s throwing our children in the river.  There’s room for various approaches to the matter, of people being caught in the tide, and coming to various stages of drowning.  But the one that will really do the job is getting to the ‘infrastructure,’ if you will.  Which means the monetary system.  Which is keeping us in a permanent, and ridiculous, state of artificial scarcity.

All of which is another story.  For now, I just wanted to share this word of advice:

Don’t do more than you can handle.  There will always be a need.

Until we get to the s.o.b. up at the top end of the river, who is causing the trouble. 

P.S. And - as life has it - I was given another chance to give ‘a hand’ this evening, when, outside of my neighborhood Rite Aid (great title, that), there was a woman from a local church, with a pail, for donations.  
     Not for more water, in people’s lives.                        

* And robbery.  Did I mention the robbery?  Oodles of it.  A lot of it being of bikes.  People have to keep their bikes in their apartments or homes proper; and when they do venture out on them, into that outer world, they have to lock them securely, including the tires, or they will be stripped down in a flash.  It’s like army ants around here.  They’re on the prowl, and when they come across a likely morsel - bam.  Stripped in a flash.  Did I mention that??
   And these guys responsible for all this sort of thing hang out in the local park, working on 'their' bikes.  Brazen as can be.  Or occupy the public toilet cubicles, waiting for customers to come for their fix.  It is so in-your-face around here. I can hardly believe it.
   But I can believe it.  Without a vision the people perish, and that sort of thing.
   But to continue.

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