Thursday, January 6, 2011

It's All Relative, Ch 2

Yesterday, I was headed out to do something for the business, feeling hard done by, tired, and sorry for myself. I pulled up to a stoplight, and saw a young man out in the rain, carrying a sign reading, "BROKE. Hungry. Anything Helps!" I thought about the level of desperation he must feel, to be willing to stand in public with his sign, all the time getting wetter and colder, in the hopes that someone would help him. I watched as a driver a few cars in front of me handed him an orange, and seeing the way he responded to that orange, as if he'd been given a precious gift, I suddenly felt very ashamed of my bad attitude.

I had just had a very satisfactory lunch, eaten in a nice warm house, with a good book, and some dogs for company, then gotten into my warm comfortable car to drive to my destination, and I was feeling sorry for myself?  I drove to the grocery store, bought some food, took it back, and gave it to the young man. I then went on with my day, but the lesson has stuck with me. It takes not very much, and we can find ourselves in that young man's position. I'm familiar with food banks through the volunteer work I did for many years, and they can barely give enough food to keep a small woman going - tall young men who are continuously hungry have to find ways to supplement that, or their health begins to suffer.

It's easy to judge and condemn and mutter darkly that people should go get a job, but the ugly truth is that entry level jobs in this country no longer pay a living wage. By the time a person pays rent and utilities on minimum wage, there isn't enough money left over for much in the way of food. We have many hundreds of thousands of hungry people getting up every day with not enough food to carry them through the month, and food banks are stretched far beyond their capabilities.

I live a comfortable life. When I'm hungry, I go into the kitchen and make myself a meal. When I'm chilly, I put on a sweater, and turn up the heat. Many people can't afford both, they have to choose between one and the other.

That young man brought home to me, once again, the reality that when I'm feeling self-pity, and hard done by, it's because my other basic needs are taken care of, and I have the luxury of thinking about myself instead. In truth, I don't have much in the way of problems. It's all relative, and relatively speaking, I've been blessed.

1 comment:

  1. Indeed, I have been blessed as well. I used to feel guilt over that. But realize that what I can do is to reach out my hand in some way and feel much compassion and gratitude.