“Opinion is really the lowest form of human knowledge. It requires no accountability, no understanding. The highest form of knowledge… is empathy, for it requires us to suspend our egos and live in another’s world. It requires profound purpose larger than the self kind of understanding.”
How often do we really look at the soul of the forgotten people? I loved this real life story my friend shared.
I couldn’t get the ‘Re-blog’ button to work, so here’s the entire thing, copied from his site:
She was walking down the road to the farm. I couldn’t make out who it might be. It wasn’t unusual to have new volunteers park at the gate and walk down. The “No Motorized Vehicles” sign doesn’t apply to the farm volunteers, but new folks don’t always know that.
It became clear that she wasn’t a volunteer as she got closer. Her pink top wasn’t a blouse but a cropped tank top. Her pants were a dinghy tan and her feet bare. It was a warm winter day, but winter, nonetheless. Maybe it was all she had. The clothes obviously hadn’t been washed in a long while.
The arms were quickly swaying back and forth, hands pointed outward. It was the addict’s walk – “schizting” and talking to herself. In my old life I would’ve called it the “hoe stro’” and laughed at her. Today, it simply made me sad.
It may have been fifteen years since I found myself in her shoes – or lack of them – but I still have enough street sense to know to keep my eye on any addict. Stuff tends to disappear quickly. Addicts are quite resourceful when it comes to the “getting and using and finding means to get more”. I figured she was going to ask for money, but she walked on by without so much as a word or a sideways glance.
I continued working, making sure to keep her in my peripheral vision. She stopped by the old compost pile at the south end of the farm. She looked carefully as she started walking slowly around the pile. Then it hit me – she was looking for something to eat.
I pick up culled produce from a couple of local grocery stores and add them to the compost area each Monday. It makes for great soil amendments, but I’m always saddened to see the amount of food that gets wasted each weekend. I realize stores aren’t supposed to sell products past their “Sell by” date. I know how people are about “ugly” produce – stuff that isn’t picture perfect. Much of what I pick up is still good to eat.
Many times, I’ve made food boxes to give away instead of throwing it all in the compost. Most Mondays I leave a good box of produce next to the pile. The farm is surrounded by hidden homeless camps and I don’t want it to go to waste. Maybe that’s what the young woman was looking for. Maybe she learned that something to eat could be found by the compost heap.
She had stopped circling the pile and stood there; sad eyes cast toward the ground. I put down my garden hoe and began walking towards her. She didn’t see me at first. She stood silently and never looked my way. As I got closer, her face came into focus. She must have been quite an attractive young lady at one time, but now her face was dirty, tired, and weathered, her eyes sunken and hollow. She probably wasn’t over thirty but looked to be much older. Hard living tends to age one quickly.
She looked up and saw me walking toward her. Her eyes showed fear and she hurried toward the river. One needs to be careful on the streets, especially a woman. I didn’t want to scare her, so I stopped and watched her disappear down the levee, headed for the river.
I wished there had been a box of food there. I wished she’d stopped for a minute and let me offer her some of the snacks I keep in my truck. I wished that she – that no one – had to pick through a compost pile just to have something to eat. I hurt for her.
She soon reappeared, made it up to the Trinity Trail, and walked out of sight. I went on about my work, but I couldn’t shake the image of her despair and shuffling searching. The lines on her face were burned into my memory. I couldn’t help but wonder whether she had a home to go to and people who cared about her. My heart broke for her. Empathy is a bitch sometimes.
When I first started fundraising for Opal’s Farm, I threw out a lot of statistics about food insecurity, food “deserts” (a misnomer but I’m not going to get into that now…), and our city’s low-income neighborhoods and how the farm would make a positive impact on it all. Unfortunately, it’s hard to see past a statistic, to see the face of someone else. I can’t empathize with a statistic.
Statistics are great, collecting data important and necessary, but it’s easy to see large numbers and be blinded to the individual. Quantification and identification aren’t solutions. Statistical data generates a lot of sympathy (usually in the form of pity), meetings and commissions but little action…
The young lady searching for food in the compost is more than a statistic. So is the old man I see regularly outside the neighborhood convenience store asking for change or simply something to eat. So are the kids who rely on a free school lunch to make sure they have something that day.
It’s easy to be overlooked or lumped into a category that makes them “the other” if one is just a statistic. Numbers can be overwhelming – “there’s nothing I can do so I’ll let someone else take care of it”. Just say “There but for the grace of God go I ” and go on about business…
There is something each one of us can do – a starting point for all our problems. We can stop. We can see the face behind the number. We can listen. Statistics don’t move people to action. People move people to action. Listening moves people to action. Seeing people as children of the same God and the same humanity as we are moves people to action.
In the oft-quoted passage in Matthew 25, Jesus says,
“I was hungry, and you fed me, I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink, I was homeless, and you gave me a room, I was shivering, and you gave me clothes, I was sick and you stopped to visit, I was in prison and you came to me… Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me – you did it to me”
I need eyes that see – really see – and ears that listen – not just hear – to do something for the “overlooked or ignored”. I begin the process of identification that allows me to serve the God in each and everyone of us. I can’t think of a better way to live…
©2021 Gregory Joel
“We react to what is in front of our eyes, not what the other possibilities may be. Our survival mechanisms are designed that way perhaps, taking in and processing what needs to be dealt with in the waking world of the moment.
“Yet we are also designed in such a way that we can at least conceive of those greater realities. Curiosity, imagination, thoughts, hopes and dreams… through these we touch a different reality every day that has its own inner life for us…”
Just a snippet from the wonderful perspective of Sue Vincent.
Yet, if one could ignore space and time and be everywhere and every-when at once it would, theoretically at least, be possible to count them. Even taking all future snowfalls for the projected lifetime of our planet into consideration, it would be a finite number. There was, once upon a time, a very first snowflake to fall. There will be a last. There would come a point where there were no…
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Broken friendless lying dying, lifts a hand for
Walking talking presses buttons, flashes past within her world.
Why stop living in the mirrors, in the spotlight;
save lying dying friendless one?
.sneaky unseen creeping coughing, enters silent crownèd killer.
Broken homebound lying sighing lifts her hand for
Walking talking, in his sunshine, stops outside her locked front gate.
Why not wave at silent windows, in the sunshine;
save lying sighing homebound face?
Then or now, we all are people;
Now or then, we all need love.
and nourish others
Smile, wave, and love the world.
©2020 Chelsea Owens
Wandered in for Carrot Ranch’s prompt:
May 7, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story to nourish. The characters can nourish or be nourished. What else can be nourished? A tree? A setting? Does the sunset nourish the soul? Go where the prompt leads!
Respond by May 12, 2020. Use the comment section …to share, read, and be social. You may leave a link, pingback, or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form. Rules & Guidelines.
Her life ran a predictable path of mostly mundane events: drive there, deliver this, return to home, clean up messes, drive, retrieve, drive.
Every day ran round to the next. Every day ran much the same.
At nearly midlife, she had an epiphany: maybe everyone’s life is mostly mundane.
She shrugged, and continued loading groceries into her car.
He knew the aliens were gonna get him soon. They’d left signs of their intent everywhere.
“Aha!” he said, pointing to broken bathroom tiles.
“There!” The side of his trailer bore a suspicious gash.
“Struck again!” he told his fellow truckers. Part of his load had spoiled; “Dern aliens” interfered with the refrigeration.
“I knew it!” he finally exclaimed, holding his pink slip. Reasons for dismissal? Damages to a rest stop restroom, damages to company property, and damages to merchandise.
“I’ll get you yet,” he mumbled, startling a passerby.
©2020 Chelsea Owens
My German grandmother wouldn’t allow a speck of dust to be out of place, let alone her own bedspread. “She puts a pin in the middle,” my father explained, “So the sheets and blankets are even.”
We sat for our Sunday visits in her tiny, tidy front room. I’d look over at my hunchbacked progenitor and wondered how she managed to keep so neat at her age, and in her condition.
“Don’t touch those!” she warned whenever we neared her knickknack shelf.
“Maybe you could play outside,” my mother sighed.
Outside didn’t promise much. The yard held long, thick grass but no swings or slides. The garden was dead; sprayed that way since Great-Grandmother couldn’t pull weeds. The dilapidated, warped-window garage was padlocked; forbidden. At the rear of the property ran a communal watering canal, also forbidden.
My pioneer stock great-aunt, on the other hand, kept a dog. She kept a candy jar. She kept roses.
“Thank you; thank you,” she told us as we pruned her roses. We tried to visit often enough to keep up on the flowers. She couldn’t bend or stoop anymore on account of bad knees, and I could see how it pained her not to kneel beside us in the lush, fragrant garden of bushes.
“Look, Shadow,” she would address her pet, “Some friends to play with you.” As the black poodle wagged his stump of a tail and slid after the old tennis ball we threw, Great-Aunt said, “He just loves it when you come.”
Both ladies aged and moved into care facilities. Both retained their manners and demeanor. “They always serve the same food,” Great-Grandma criticized the staff’s meals. “What a lovely card,” Great-Aunt praised our handmade creations.
I wondered, in my childlike mind, what made for the difference in my elderly relatives. Did my German one behave as she did because of her osteoporosis hunch? Did my rose-loving aunt feel happier because she took a strong dose of medicine for her joints? Or, was there a core personality in each?
What, then, was my core person like?
From what I could see, not good. I related to Mary Lennox of The Secret Garden, described as an odd little thing who did not get along well with people. I had a temper. No one seemed to like me -and that was fine with me! I cried easily, was stubborn about everything, and felt others ought to be forced to do what was ‘right.’
I saw myself in my great-grandmother’s eyes, yet recognized that hers was a repugnant personality.
Still, I seemed unable to change. I still seem unable to change. A counselor told me I could; that mine was a personality of years of learned behavior. My husband thinks I can; that my gloomy outlook is a matter of controllable perspective. I berate myself; saying I ought to be less sarcastic.
Yet, out it comes. Couldn’t dry wit and depressed sarcasm be my core after all?
I’m curious if this is the case with you, my readers. Do you think we have a core personality? What is yours? Have we the ability to change? Have you done so? How?
I’m not sure my relations would approve of what I wrote last week:
Wednesday, September 25: Helped out the rising, driving generation with “11 Adulting Tips About Cars.”
Thursday, September 26: “The Darn Sock Connection, a parody,” a parody on “The Rainbow Connection.”
Saturday, September 28: Announced the 45th Weekly Terrible Poetry Contest. The theme is a tanka about pumpkin spice. Sniff some cloves and ENTER today!
Monday, September 30: An inspirational quote by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.
Tuesday, October 1: “Wilhelmina Winters, One Hundred Six.”
Wednesday, October 2: Today.
Photo Credit: Alex Harvey 🤙🏻
©2019 Chelsea Owens
Step right up, folks! Step right up!
Come feast your eyes on this marvelous tonic; right here, right now. What you may think is a simple bottle is actually the most secret of formulas from the Jungles of the East; from the hand of Marvelodijiling, the famed Healer and only man to live past 200 years of age without a health problem of any sort.
This is The Cure for Depression.
It is, indeed. You may shake your head at me, madame. You may wonder at the authenticity, young sir. I assure ALL that this product is exactly as it says. One simple dose each day will GUA-RAN-TEE to rid you of the woes of Depression.
…And if that sales pitch convinced you, then you and I need to have a long talk.
Actually, we can have a really short talk: Depression doesn’t work like that. For one, it isn’t “cured.” It is, however, a condition that CAN be managed once you learn the skills. This depends on the severity of symptoms and genetics and a whole crapload of stuff that would best be handled by a professional.
I am not a professional; at least, not that kind. I am merely a fellow sufferer with access to Google. I have, therefore, come up with a list:
3. Swallow that pill, if necessary.
4. Get up, then move.
5. Get outside.
6. Eat something healthy.
7. Do something that brings you real joy.
8. If it doesn’t fit in with #7, do something for someone.
10. Sleep, at sleeping times. Wake at morning times.
11. Follow a routine.
12. Meditate, pray, journal, etc.
13. Don’t get sloppy and don’t skip what works.
14. Never give up. (Never surrender.)
Whenever you’re in your cave, I’d like you to pull out this list. Grab one; do it. Maybe steal another after an hour of trying the first one.
Furthermore, I’m gonna help a brother/sister/broster/sisther out by writing individual articles about each of these ideas. It’ll be a tetradecalogy. Stick around; eat some chocolate.
Come for the treats, stay for the community, and live life for the future you.
Originally posted at The Bipolar Writer Mental Health Blog on May 28, 2018. I intend to publish one of these articles each week.
*Chelsea Owens is not a licensed anything, except a Class D driver in her home state, and shares all information and advice from personal experience and research.
You’ll never find rainbows
If you’re looking down.
-Charlie Chaplin, part of the lyrics in his song “Swing Little Girl” (1969).
“Let us not look back in anger, nor forward in fear, but around us in awareness.”