The business where I spend my time serving humanity and collecting a huge paycheck has a large parking lot located near one of the main streets that run through my hometown. Hint: it's name is NOT Main St.!! During breaks and lunch periods I spend time in my truck in this very parking lot, listening to classical music, eating healthy salads and concocting snooty lies about the kinds of things I do in my truck during breaks and lunch periods. At least once a week I am approached by beggars. They walk up to the window, wait for me to roll it down and turn down the volume on the local rap station and ask for money, food, or money. Mainly money. Whatever I can spare. Please.
How do you deal with people who approach you asking for spare change? Do you have a no tolerance policy? Do you give every time you are asked? Do you gauge the character of the person asking you before deciding to help?
My truck has a section near the gear shift for change and I keep pennies, nickels, dimes, and, how did you guess? quarters there. I usually reach down and tell whoever that all I have is a quarter. Will this really help someone out? Or does it do more for me by assuaging any guilt over the unfairness of the situation? When I am on lunch and have some spare snack on the seat beside me available, I suppose I could offer it to the individual. "Here, have a Pringles Potato Crisp." doesn't seem like much of a solution. Perhaps keeping a deli sandwich in a cooler for such occassions would be far more fitting. Should I do that?
This blog post was inspired by an incident from yesterday morning that I cannot get to leave my head. At 5:55am a slightly haggard woman approached my truck. It was far too early for this, I thought, and pretended to suddenly find something on the roof of my truck extremely interesting. Through my peripheral vision, I spotted her raising something and, fearing a weapon, I decided to look at her. In her hand was a photo. The color photo showed a large Mexican male, bald, with a bushy mustache, dressed in a sleeveless white T-shirt and white cargo shorts. He was standing near a brick wall with an air of weariness about him. I rolled down my window.
The woman, in English with a slight Spanish accent explained, slowly and without hesitation, that the man in the photo was her husband. They had 4 children together all of whom she was caring for because he was taken to Mexico. She wanted anything I could spare in order to hire a "coyote" who would bring her husband across the border so he could help her feed her children.
Quite a story. I believed her. She appeared earnest. A potato chip probably wouldn't have helped. Nor a sandwich. A quarter then? Her plan seemed to entail quite a cost. Would a dollar be enough? 5 dollars? 10? Or... wait. We are talking illegal immigration here. She wanted me to support, with my money, an act of illegal immigration. But there were children involved, weren't there? This was now an issue of humanity, not law. Right? What would it take for you to walk parking lots before 6am, asking for spare change from whoever you came across? Would you do this without hesitation, for your husband? For your children?
I won't tell you what I did, how I responded. What would you have done?
But here is an odd thing. I am attaching relevance to it that may not be appropriate. Something happened today at lunch break. In my truck, reading the Wall Street Journal, I put the paper down and stared ahead, pondering, not focusing on anything. Motion on the ground outside my window attracted my attention. A small, chubby bird was looking at me. I don't know bird types at all, but let's say it was a wren, because "wren" is a great Scrabble word. This wren hopped closer looking AT me. Waiting.
The damned bird was begging. And not for a quarter or for help in getting her wren husband out of a zoo in Mexico either. I was pretty sure. I cracked the window enough to throw something out at the bird. She hopped away a little. Then looked at the busy street. Then back at me, as if letting me know the coast was clear and to toss out the bit of food or whatever I had to give her. I took a potato chip and tossed it out the window as hard as I could. It curved down to the ground and cracked in two. She looked at me. Hopped over. Looked around, then back at me. She picked up a half in her beak and chewed rather quickly, if it can even be described as chewing". She looked at me again, her little bird face tilted slightly, as if trying to memorize my face. She picked up the other, larger half of the chip and hopped a bit before flying away.
This would be where I tie the two events together. How we are all, man and beast, reliant on one another. How sometimes we need to beg for what we need. Hard times eventually grace us all and no man is an island. We are the world. I am my brother's keeper and all that. No one gets out of this world alone and people NEED people and so on and so forth. But I won't do that. That would be cheesy. If I was being taught something by Someone larger than myself, well, that's not for me to bore YOU with. You get to go through this life in your own skin. And you get to give or not give to beggars as you see fit. And when you are in need they are free to treat you the way they wish.
Maybe when I need help, someone will toss me a potato chip, I will memorize their face, and thank them in my own way.
Friday, August 13, 2010
Thursday, August 5, 2010
On August 4th, U.S. District Judge Vaughn R. Walker declared California's ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional based on federal constitutional grounds. California "has no interest in differentiating between same-sex and opposite-sex unions" he said in his 136-page ruling. Vaughn said the ban violated the federal constitutional guarantees of equal protection and of due process.
Yes 6,838,107 52.3%
No 6,246,463 47.7%
Total votes 13,084,570 100.00%
Voter turnout 79.42%
So here's where the cheers went up, the Gay Rights Supporters, who were crushed when Prop 8 was passed, were now jumping up and down with glee. Supporters of the Proposition were crushed, wondering what happened. Something simple happened. A self-serving creep in black robes decided he would decide what was right. HE would nullify the wishes of nearly 7 million voters by overturning this Proposition. HIS vote was more important than 7 million people. One man, one vote? Not to Judge Walker.
This issue is shrouded by the nature of the subject. Gay Marriage is a hot button issue and emotions tend to get in the way of intellect. Let's remove the issue at hand, or, better yet, reverse it. Say the Proposition was defeated and Gay Marriage was passed in 2008. Now, stick with me here, imagine a heterosexual judge (Judge Vaughn Walker is a homosexual) overturning the decree based on a constitutional something-or-other. NOW are the Gay Rights advocates cheering? Doubtful.
A Proposition goes through tests of constitutionality before it is placed on a ballot. Proposition 8 passed this test. A majority of voters agreed with the stated goals of Proposition 8. This majority voted for its approval yet one person, one judge, decided he would thwart the will of the people. Take the sensitive nature of the Proposition out of the equation. A majority of the populace voted for something and one judge took it upon himself to deny this vote. Is this not a dangerous precedent? Should we not be outraged that one activist judge believes he can alter the vote of nearly 7 million Californians instead of celebrating this particular initiative? What if next time a judge overturns something YOU and the majority of your area voted for fair and square based on some loophole. If you celebrate this single judge's decision then you will have no right to rail against the next judge who places him or herself above the voters.
You see, it doesn't matter what the subject is. My point is that a grave miscarriage of justice happened on August 4th and it is being lost within a debate about whether two men or two women should have a right to get married*. Next up will be a decision by California's 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, a liberal institution that will, likely, approve of Judge Walker's decision. From there the U.S. Supreme Court will take it on. My prediction is that they will overturn it by a vote of 5-4. This entire circus will have gone on far too long and proven dangerous to our democracy. Try to look past the Gay Rights/Support of Marriage aspect of this situaion. There is a larger point here. Please consider it.
*California is one of the few states in which gay partners are granted all the civil rights of a married couple by the way.