I drifted off to sleep, thinking about how lucky I am.
I was driving home from work at 11:40 pm, and it was bitterly cold and raw outside. Frost, glittering beneath the street lights, was already covering the grass and the pavement. I looked forward to getting home.
Almost to my destination, I noticed a car in the dark parking lot of the city park down the street from our house. The windows were all fogged up. Someone was inside.
“Please let it be lovers,” I thought. But it was midweek, and the weather was hardly conducive to romance. The car wasn’t exactly date-worthy, either.
I went home to my warm house and my loving husband and my well-fed dogs. There was a fire in the fireplace, and warm food waiting for me. Before bed, we luxuriated in the hot tub as the freezing fog surrounded us.
As I took my hot shower and then tucked in beneath my warm comforter, belly full and feeling safe, I couldn’t get that car out of my mind. I drifted off to sleep, thinking about how lucky I am.
The next morning I woke up at 5:20 am, because on that day I work the day shift, not the swing shift as I had the night before. The fog in my head was as thick as the fog outside. I stumbled about, preparing for work, too tired to complain about my usual less than 5 hours of sleep on this day of the week.
I stepped out into the 35 degree wall of grey and wondered about that car. “Please let it be gone,” I thought, as I started the engine and cranked up the heat.
But no. There it was, still at the park. The windows were still fogged, so the occupant was still breathing, at the very least. But man, it was so cold.
How do you face the day, struggle to improve your lot in life, manage to get clean and find food, after a night like that? How do you cope? What do you do next?
What could I have done? Invite this person, this stranger, this (let’s face it) potentially mentally ill drug addict, to stay in our guest room? Is that person’s life worth my own? But what if it was a single mom with a baby who was running away from spousal abuse?
Should I have entered that dark, deserted parking lot and offered that fellow human being money or blankets or food or… something? Anything? And then, what about the next person? And the next?
What should I have done? What would have been enough? What would you do?
I hesitated to write this post. I hate to sound like a bleeding heart liberal. I hate to reveal that I did nothing, as I almost always do. I did nothing but take my white, overly-privileged butt home to my hot tub, where I wallowed in my ineffectual guilt.
The worst part about it is that I guarantee you that that’s what I’ll be doing next week, too. Yes, I’ll throw money at causes. I’ll vote. I’ll blog. But what good does that do for the thousands of people sleeping in their cars or, worse yet, on the streets, in my city each night?
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How do you promote one belief system and yet espouse another?
I am always shocked when I remember that Charlton Heston, the star of two of the most liberal movies ever made, the original Planet of the Apes and Soylent Green, went on to become the poster child for what I believe to be the most conservative, warped and corrupt organization in America: The National Rifle Association. I mean, how do you promote one belief system and yet espouse another? I wouldn’t be able to do it.
Bill Cosby also springs to mind. On screen he was the quintessential family man. That was his brand. But in reality he was a sexual predator. The moral tension between what you do and who you are in these situations must be exhausting, unless you’re a psychopath.
But actors aren’t the only ones who act. Diplomats definitely have to do it, as do politicians, if they hope for any type of occupational success. Lawyers, too, along with every director of a human resource department on the face of the earth.
How do you people sleep at night? I would be up at all hours, trying to reconcile the dichotomy of my life. I can’t even stand it when someone within my orbit behaves like that. I can’t abide fake people. I think they’re evil.
Unfortunately, we need diplomats and politicians and lawyers and personnel directors. I suppose I should be happy that there are people out there who are willing to act. I would hate to take on those dirty jobs myself.
So, if you are devoid of integrity, never fear. There’s a place in this crazy world for you, too.
Not a day goes by when there isn’t some outrageous story about a corrupt politician. I’m relieved that most of us are still shocked by this, but I can feel the cynicism growing all around me like kudzu on an abandoned Southern house. I rue the day when we all become so used to it that it doesn’t even raise any eyebrows. That’s what they’re working toward. That’s what they’re hoping for. That’s why we can never allow ourselves to look away.
I have personal experience with this outrageous lack of ethics. For me the poster child for a slimy politician is this man: Andy Johnson of Jacksonville, Florida.
Most of you won’t have heard of him. He’s rapidly sinking into obscurity. In the 80’s, though, he was a member of the Florida legislature. (If you want to see his smug face back in those days, go here.) It tells you much about his effectiveness as a politician that he was eventually defeated by Corrine Brown, an even bigger embarrassment to the Democratic Party.
I had the misfortune of crossing paths with this distasteful man long after his political career had taken its nosedive. For many years he was the host of a progressive talk show in Jacksonville Florida, and my boyfriend at the time worked for him, often without pay. (Had I known that at the time, I wouldn’t have been stupid enough to do business with the man, but I could only work with the information I was given.)
I’ve written time and time again about how this man stole $3,500.00 from me and refuses to pay it back. That’s why he has his very own category on my blog. Suffice it to say, I took him to court and won. I also have a lien on his house, for all the good it will do me. (If you’re interested, it’s Duval County, Florida, case number 16-2010-SC-000516.) The interest that has accrued would make this lien worth buying from me, if you are so inclined. That’s probably the only way I’ll ever see that money again, because I’m not cut out to be a debt collector.
I’ll never stop telling the truth about what Andy Johnson has done. I have the truth on my side, at least. He’ll never have that. You wear the chains you forge in life, Andy.
I guess my point is that the political corruption we are seeing today is nothing new. The difference is, those of us who have been wronged have a lot more forums in which to speak out about these offenses. The cockroaches no longer have the luxury of the dark. That, at least, is a step in the right direction. I hope someday these roaches will be squashed by justice.
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A few weeks ago I had a Sunday off for the first time in years, so I decided to go to the University Unitarian Church here in Seattle. I’ve been a Unitarian Universalist for many years, but my schedule doesn’t allow me to participate often. I’ve written about the religion before, so I’ll just say that its liberal outlook, its highly educated congregation, its emphasis on social justice and the environment, and its refusal to force dogma down your throat are what appeal to me the most. I was really looking forward to attending a service for the first time in ages.
I felt welcomed as soon as I arrived. And I was delighted right away by a little Anna’s hummingbird sitting on its tiny nest in their rhododendron bush. They had covered the window in paper and cut out little peep holes so people could observe her without disturbing her.
The chapel was beautiful—open and airy. And the congregation is so large, with more than 850 members, that they have two services each Sunday. That’s great for those of us who like to sleep in. I’m used to a congregation of about 200 or so, so this was really amazing to me.
Many things were discussed from the pulpit, including politics, but the thing that stayed with me the most was this interesting concept: the people you care about, friends and family, abide within your own special circle of love. Now, imagine what would happen if all of us expanded our circles of love, if only a few inches, to include others. What would the world be like then?
If we could include strangers who are suffering, people of other cultures, the homeless, the oppressed… if we all extended our love to include these people, if we all just made a little extra effort, this planet would be changed for the better in ways beyond our ability to imagine. Fear and hatred would be eradicated. This feeling of free-floating anxiety that we all seem to be experiencing would be a thing of the past. As John Lennon liked to sing, “Imagine.”
I left there feeling better about things than I have in a long time, simply because there’s potential for improvement. I wish they had had a “Joys and Concerns” part of their ceremony, as many UU Churches do, which allows you to stand up and say things, but I suppose with this many people, the service would go on forever. But if I’d had the opportunity, I would have said this: “My joy today is that this church, with its compassion, its social responsibility, and its love for the planet, exists. My work schedule doesn’t allow me to attend often, but I get a great deal of comfort from knowing that you’re here. Thank you.”
And the last song we sang was Lean on Me. How appropriate. If you’re looking for a sense of community without judgment or dogma, find a Unitarian Universalist Church near you.
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