Sunday, August 12, 2018

Cool As a Cucumber

I'm sitting on my back porch on this cool August morning, listening to cicadas and, in the distance, sirens. Although I don't like the heat of the days, I do like this ripe time of year, knowing we will cool off overnight.

Speaking of cooling off, it took a cucumber to put out my smoldering resentment of the Development Director. 
(She never replied to my suggestion that someone write up a social media policy. If I were her, I'd have written back, "Would you be willing to write it?" What kind of developing is she doing? (OK, so maybe I'm still banking some warm coals...))

I. The Cucumber

I was biking home on the Greenway bike path on a scorching afternoon a couple days ago, when a young man in the high grassy shade of a bridge called out weakly, "Do you have any water?"

I could barely hear him. I didn't have water, but I had a juicy cucumber, (free from work), and because it's strange that someone would ask for something so elemental, I turned around, biked back and offered it to him.

He looked bad---eyes glazed, and dried white saliva around his mouth. He was barefoot, wearing only wearing a pair of shorts, and you could see his extensive tattoos. 
He'd fallen asleep in the hot sun for hours, he said, and become so weak from lack of water, he couldn't get up.
"No one stopped and gave me water," he said.

I told him I'd go get water and come back, but first I flagged down a passing biker with a water-bottle full of orange liquid.
"Can you help?" I said.

Gatorade! It was like watering a drooping coleus, the effect was almost instantaneous.

And then a man came walking up with a bottle of fruit-flavored water--(he looked like he maybe came from the encampment of homeless Hispanic folk under the next bridge)--he'd gone to get it for this dehydrated young man.

I said I'd stay a few minutes until the young was sure he was OK. He said thank you, but repeated,
"No one gave me water. I was here for an hour."

"Now two people have stopped to give you water," I said. 
But I knew this didn't erase the fact that he had sat there a long time alone. 

There is so much need out there (and in here)––I don't want to waste my emotional energy fretting about stupid administrators.
I want to find things (people, words . . . toys) who help me withstand sadness and fear and lack so I can help, or at least be present (which is a kind of help), and still see joy in life too.

II. Saints

I got a great dose of help with that when I researched St. Clare of Assisi yesterday––it was her feast day (d. Aug 11, 1253).

BELOW: "St. Clare and St. Francis", by Francis Cunningham. 1983-84. (You know it's the '80s by the Hutch-like pornstache.) 

This in particular:
Clare & Francis believed peace comes through giving people MORE than they deserve, not through justice. 
(It's like that hard story in the Bible where the workers who come late to the field get paid the same as the ones who worked all day. Mercy is not fair!)

This recalled me to my self, and away from the hierarchy. 

I wouldn't say most of my coworkers think like Clare.
I overheard one church lady complaining to the others about a man who came in with a voucher entitling him to free housewares––he had wanted some plates of a more expensive brand.

"Of course we should help the poor," the woman said, "but they don't need Noritake." *

I've heard a lot of this sort of judgment at thrift stores--
resentment of people who get something––something nice––for nothing, even if they're in dire need. Mostly it comes from hardworking people who are or have themselves been not well off--but not poor by choice, like Francis & Clare, (who both came from well-off families and chose holy poverty).

The coworkers I'm talking about haven't chosen poverty in imitation of Christ, as a path of spiritual liberation.
Quite the opposite: I see that they have been caged, restricted and diminished by poverty and lack.

And that can be spiritual and intellectual poverty too. Like, who knows what's going on with the Development Director. She certainly was lacking basic information about social media... 
I really don't think I was unkind in what I emailed to her, but I was in what I thought about her!

I don't want to waste my energy carrying resentment around. 
It's heavier than water.

*Re Noritake china. 

This church lady is in her 80s and grew up in a hardworking farming family,
 in a poor, rural part of the state. 

I think Noritake would have represented "making it" into a better economic and social class in the 1950s: 

nice chinaware you didn't  inherit from your grandmother or get free as a gas-station premium.

The poor have not have earned this kind of nice china, and therefore do not deserve it as charity, in this church lady's eyes.


gz said...

when you are poor,to have just this type of china to use...not to put in a just what you, and the china,need

Frex said...

Yes! I love that you include what the china needs---I feel that way too:
the wonderful pieces want to be used and wanted!
When I've been in a bad spot, a little bit of beauty can be such comfort.

PotterMiller said...

I have often thought about giving handmade dishes to homeless shelters and women's shelters. It just kills me that we feed battered or homeless people off paper throw away dishes, kind of like society thinks of people who are just wanting a meal. That judgement thing is a hard thing to carry around; used to challenge my kids to a day without judgement and then we would call out each other when you heard it happening. Pretty eye opening! And then again there were days they could only judge each other and much door slamming ensued and I wondered if this was worth the exercise as I slowly lost my mind. Great blog post and so great you stopped to help........ thanks!

Fresca said...

POTTER: Yes, yes, yes---everything is throw-away, and that includes people.
Of course I know the advantage of throw-away dishes in shelters is you don't have to wash them.
My workplace has no kitchen sink--you have to take your dishes to the back of the store to wash them---and of course people don't---and they mold...

I wish we weren't so overwhelmed and had more time to take care of things and each other... and that the Uppity-Ups were on board with that, instead of with things like reintroducing... asbestos???!?!?!
Can that even be true?

A Day without Judgment.
I just failed!
But of course we judge harmful things---the trick, for me, is to keep my eye on things I can DO something about.
Like giving someone a cucumber. :)

PotterMiller said...

:) !!