Monday, May 23, 2011

If it Ain't Happening (to me).. Is it Happening...Lessons learned from idiocy

If it’s not happening to me, is it happening?

Thirsty people seek water,; hungry people seek food; cold people seek heat; neglected people see acceptance (approval)~Phil McGraw

Warning, this is a long blog:.

Like many others, I woke up this morning to still yet another storm devasting and destroying the many good people of Joplin, Missouri. It took me more then a minute to realize what was going on Good Morning America because as I saw the first images, I thought they were talking about Mississippi! Much to my horror I come to find out this just happened yesterday evening at dinnertime!

Like many I sat there with my jaw dropped opening and heart was wrenching with the early reports. Rapid thoughts going through my head one of which was how easily one’s life can change on a dime to what can be done to help aid the suffering that is just beginning to seeing for myself the irony of while this was going on Sunday evening there I was thinking about something that in comparison to this was quite trivial.

I am sure many others were having similar thoughts with some making needed changes in their lives while most will beyond the initial shock will sooner or later go back to their lives; sort of the “if its not happening to me, it really isn’t happening”. I don’t necessarily mean in a callous way although for some it will be but perhaps (and I am only speculating here), it is a flawed human reaction to distance oneself from these sorts of things out of fear or self preservation...

Sometimes it is simple too much, hurts too much, that the proverbial rug can indeed be pulled from underneath you in the blink of an idea with you not knowing what to do so one can contrive ways to deflect to distance oneself.

Well there I was ruminating over the selfishness & irresponsibility of some people I barely know over their behavior toward me & how their “If it isn’t happening to me” actions brought some real, tangible hurt to me. Not anything that will long term cause permanent damage, but nonetheless the betrayal did sting & in some cases hurt. I was trying to figure out in my mind how to deal with it if there was any dealing at all to do or how I could do a better job of not listening to the stuff. Understand, I can see an elephant coming toward but, I cannot see it when it arrives like a gnat or even a butterfly until slap!

Now again, I know this is very trivial in comparison to what happen last night.

I am getting there.

Right now I am telling a story…

Ok, so where was I… Oh yes… I ended up reading three stories last night one story will be quite familiar to some, the others maybe not so much. I was sitting there Sunday evening meditating on this when I recalled the story of Job and his issue with as he was going to his very challenging trials that he had so called “comforters”, self-righteous tormentors who had to add insult to injury adding to his burden as he was engaged in a trial not of his on doing. My reflections came to a conclusion of wanting more to emulate Job maintain integrity despite it all. Flawed yes, but maintaining.

The next was on Elijah, the prophet who in his despair, feeling he was lost, alone, in fear & tired while being persecuted by Queen Jezebel who made it clear as soon as she caught up with him, that he would be a dead man. She had already killed thousands of believers but made it really clear, she had something special in line for him once he was captured. But at his worst, an angel was dispensed to minister to him not once but twice to help restore him not only physically but more so spiritually to do what needed to be done. And Elijah was not a young man when this persecution was happening. Yet Elijah was listened to as he poured out his distress, was sustained and went on to do miraculous things.

The third was one I had not heard of Mephibosheth. (Please do not ask me to pronounce) He was the son of Jonathon, Kind David closes friend & was disabled. A promise made by King David to Jonathon was to take care of his children. Another man Ziba, who’s family were servants to Mephibosheth, took advantage of a circumstance to bear a falsehood about Mephibosheth which caused him to lose everything. Later when his side of the story was hear the decision came that they both would share the inheritance although Ziba lied. Mephibosheth although he suffered greatly said that Ziba could have everything as the thing that mattered to him more was the safety of King David. That had to be hard, but there was a principle that was involved. I looked at it from the standpoint that despite the fact I have had gynormous challenges & my angst this last week about those who tried to heap fiery coals on my head was more about my being through with them, not about my being hurt. There was a principle involved.

People are going to be self-seeking, self-gratifying, and pleasure-seeking with a growing urgency in not wanting to see what is going on around them. It is the culture we are living in today. People are going to do exactly what their character dictates. Just more of the “it ain’t happening to me” strategy, born of self-interested& yes, fear. It was more, for me, about moving away from the polluted “air” around these folks as I do not want to be contaminated. I did not want to inhale.

Please note I do not think most folks see themselves as being so self-absorbed or selfish. I barely know some of these folks then just in passing, we run into each other often enough to where I know their faces, but not their names for the most part. In some cases, contact may not be completely avoidable. My reflections are about what I can do to improve what I can do to be a better person & perhaps even be more merciful toward them.

Now what does this have to do with my issue with is trivial in comparison to Missouri? Well for me, it was while hurtful and real to me, my situation; there are indeed bigger fish to fry. What people do in the least is what they do in the much; I simply want to be better about rising to an occasion. It never ceases to amaze me how many people seem to take delight or some perverted sense of pleasure or amusement out of someone’s suffering & do nothing. Others who while not getting pleasure so to speak can stand idly by with the “I have to take care of my own” or “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” while standing idly by and do nothing. The “do nothing” are the operative words. However I wish their “do nothing” approach applied in keeping their opinions to themselves and not heap burdens on others as going back to the account of Job. There are many, many people suffering, to varying degrees & individually we do not get to decide who more deserves then the other. We may not individually be able to wipe out world hunger, but we can help a local person or a family even in the smallest thing, a meal or a loaf of bread.

And do it with no strings attached. Aiding someone , let say with a roll of toilet paper (yes there are some who cannot even buy that) does not secure the giver the right to lecture, pass judgment or get titillated by gossiping with someone else as to why or what that person may have (or not) done to be in that both. If you cannot or won’t help, now the times to operate the “does nothing” strategy, 1st do no harm.

A lot of people are not in the positions they are in because of bad “karma” or bad decisions or being lazy. Time & unforeseen circumstances can befall any of us at anytime. Just ask the people of Joplin, Mo who were probably having dinner, playing games, making a run to the store, arguing with a family member or wishing they had family when that massive tornado hit.

Just a couple of days ago I ran into a man at the streetcar who I had just thought in passing he was a bit eccentric. In a city full of eccentrics, you don’t pay a whole lot of attention if you live here; it is part of the territory. Well that same day I asked the bus driver about something he had spoken to her about. Well it turns out every Sat he has a clothing drive gathering clothing for the homeless at a former Walgreen store destroyed by Katrina & now is a furniture bank. He was asking her to pass the word about getting feminine toiletries for homeless women as apparently there was a place allowing these women to shower & they were trying to gather toiletries for them.

I asked her the next time she saw him to please get a contact number not knowing that the very next day I was going to run into him. 7am Sunday morning in fact! I asked him about his project & got a location which turned out to be a furniture bank that I mentioned above. I did not even know this furniture bank existed where they sell every piece of furniture for $35 no matter how fancy or humble. The purpose is for ones who cannot afford the Goodwill or Salvation Army prices but badly needed furniture could purchase; the proceeds are then used to secure even more pieces from yard sales or other events. How cool is that?

Well the furniture bank allowed this man to come in every Sat for people to make clothing only donations. He then with the help of friends goes directly to the homeless to give them fresh clothing, so they could have some dignity. One of the things he told me was contrary to what people want to believe to about the homeless, to justify the “of it ain’t happening to me” strategy, that there were plumbers, architects, college educated people out there who were licensed but could not get hired because they had no address. That was no previous history of drug/ alcohol abuse or mental illness.

The irony is I ran into the same gentleman today who was infuriated and decided to cancel out on gathering clothing for the homeless.  His reasons to me was today when he went by apparently someone came needing workers.  There were 45 homeless out there and only 4 accpeted the work.  His attitude now is "let them fend for themselves.  I won't help any more maybe they will get up and do something on their own".  I understaood his anger & his passion, but he have the full story?  And who was he doing it for?  What was he getting out of it that now he decided that some di dnot do what he felt they should now lets cast them aside?

People never cease to amaze me..  This was lesson number four for me .If you are going to help, check out what your agenda is.  Examine yourself to see what you are doing it for.  If there are clauses, tell people what your clauses are.  It is not fair to expect people to follow a policy or standard but not tell them what it is.

Personally, it was a reminder for me how fortunate I have been. My puzzlement is more of why they would be so fascinated with me to do these kinds of things, but I know it is not about me intellectually I know this, but sometimes one does not see the ambush coming. My prayer is that they not have to ever experience what I’ve been through, still go through that the deflection of “if it ain’t happening to me, it ain’t happening” strategy protects them from harm.

But the reality is sooner or later it will. But I am not so naïve as to think that somehow if and when it does, that all of a sudden they will have an epiphany & change their ways. It is not my job to take that responsibility on. A few will, most won’t, it is part of being flawed/imperfect.

And then Joplin, Missouri happened and all that stuff became trivial.

You cannot wring your hands and roll up your sleeves at the same time~

Polish proverb

1 comment:

Linda said...

When I was at my conference last week we had a speaker from a local homeless shelter and she addressed the issue of working and the homeless in detail.

She told us how there is a place that offer jobs on a daily basis but you have to line up before 7 in the morning if you want to one of the people who gets hired. Breakfast at the shelter is at 8. So much for getting breakfast.
If you get the job you can't get to the shelter or a food bank to get any lunch. By time you get back without having eaten all day you get to the shelter and find that they have run out of food by that time. If the job was on the outskirts of town and you get back after 6:30 you loose your spot at the shelter for the night. You are all ready run down, malnourished and might have health issues that got you in this situation.

Now.. because you went to work, you have missed 3 meals and have no where safe to sleep and you might have a paycheck no one will cash for you because you don't have a bank account without a permanent address.

At this particular shelter they are now gaurantee that people can come back the next night if they go to a job. They are also asking for lunch ingredients and people, even high school kids, are coming to pack non perishable parts of lunches the day before so that people can take a lunch with them rather than hanging out at the shelter for bowls of soup.

So sad that the man you were talking about, who showed the desire to reach out and help, stopped because of such ignorance.