Strange is our situation here upon earth. Each of us comes for a short visit, not knowing why, yet sometimes seeming to a divine purpose. From the standpoint of daily life, however, there is one thing we do know: That we are here for the sake of others…for the countless unknown souls with whose fate we are connected by a bond of sympathy. Many times a day, I realize how much my outer and inner life is built upon the labors of people, both living and dead, and how earnestly I must exert myself in order to give in return as much as I have received.
I have some thoughts I just have to get out so I can get back to being productive, so just bare with me.
In Salt Lake City, I know about 4 public places where people will panhandle, plus randomly in front of convenience stores. I think I avoid these places subconsciously. Sometimes, when I am confronted by someone who wants money for food and my schedule and mood permit, I offer to buy them a meal. The majority decline the offer. Sometimes, I have bought someone a plate of food and in exchange asked them questions about their life. I’ve heard some interesting stories, from people who would probably be described as intelligent by any measure other than the fact that they are destitute.
I went from FOOCamp to a San Francisco hotel in the Tenderloin. The accommodations there were quite nice inside, but once on the street, I was struck by what I will describe as ‘social decay’, or at least that is the best two word phrase I have come up with. I haven’t been in a big city for a while and perhaps Salt Lake City’s harsh winter buffers my experience by making the city less than inviting to those with no means, but I found the openness at FOOCamp, juxtaposed with the reality of a big city, jarring to say the least.
In less than 2 hours, I went from wanting to engage with everyone and regretting there wasn’t more time, to wishing I was invisible and not wanting to make eye contact with anyone. The experience was personally painful. Isn’t walking down a street oblivious to the obvious suffering the definition of sociopathic?
The alternative of engaging led to clumsy communication at best, and while I have a hard time not giving someone who claims to be hungry a dollar, I’m not sure I did any good either.
What does this have to do with anything? Honestly, I’m not sure. I could probably sit and weave it into some metaphors and analogies about software teams and dysfunction, about communication impedance, about the problems caused by decisions made by those who will not be effected by them, about changing yourself and your organization by refusing to propagate an unempowering meme, but I don’t feel like being that clever today.
…When one sits in the Hoop Of The People,
one must be responsible because
All of Creation is related.
And the hurt of one is the hurt of all.
And the honor of one is the honor of all.
And whatever we do effects everything in the universe…
passed down from White Buffalo Calf Woman
The problem doesn’t seem like one I can overcome, certainly not by myself. Humanity has obviously struggled with this since the beginning of time. What does it mean to be a ‘citizen’, to be a ‘society’? I don’t know either, but it seems worth thinking about and acting upon. But what to do? Many social programs seem caught up in their own self righteousness and have little impact but well paid executives. We don’t need another one of those, but what would facilitate true long lasting change? Maybe I’m just being too sensitive, but the alternative feels like self deception and a small death of conscience.
Now back to the regularly scheduled program…