I wouldn’t have this perspective if I’d had more to eat or
less to drink. Nothing would make sense, and these words would not fall into
place like this had I not gone through all that I have in my life.
And I haven’t gone through much.
At least that’s what they tell me.
I am after all, white.
And semi-privileged. Which means my parents worked their
asses off to make sure I had what I needed to succeed—food, shelter, and an
insurmountable amount of love.
But I don’t want to get into the haves and have nots. I did
that once before—writing about riots and the poor decisions people make when
they are oppressed and frustrated—and a woman said that she felt sorry for me.
I didn’t understand, she said. I couldn’t understand, she said. I was ignorant,
she said. All because I mentioned that the issues we have can be boiled down to
something simple—you’re either nice or you’re not.
My kids get it. Other kids get it too. They don’t see color or history or gender or whatever other labels we do. They just see good. Unless their parents have poisoned them. Making them see what they want them to.
You know who you are. Devils.
We do everything we can to complicate this life. Create
issues that don’t exist. Blame people for their ignorance and try to push them
into some category that says—indirectly, of course—that they are less than
But that’s not true.
The overweight fella collecting carts at Walmart is not all
the different from the man loading his cart with organic veggies, cage free
eggs, protein shakes, and booze.
The elderly man offering savings in the form of a coupon-filled
flier at the entrance of Meijer is not so different than the lawyer and his family
buying candles, chocolate, and video games.
We are all in this together.
Human beings on a big ball of dirt and water whirling
But we don’t want to break down to the basics.
We want to be special. To be heard.
We are so selfish that we believe it’s early, but late.
We believe that our perspective has the power to shape. That
if we have less to eat or more to drink everything will make sense. Words will
fall into place and finally we will express all we’ve gone through in this life.
We are ignorant, they say. All because we believe the issues we face can be boiled down simplicity—either you’re nice or you’re not.
I remember being six and standing in the cheese line at the fairgrounds with my Mom and brothers. It was a beautiful, bright day. There was so much light around. I remember the light so well.
All of us were wearing hand-me-downs or Salvation Army specials. There was more than cheese, of course—“provisions” is what they called it, and I remember powdered milk, cereal, and other necessities and my belly grumbling with hunger and excitement as we received the plainly labeled packages that would be rationed for weeks—but it was the cheese line, no doubt, because that’s what kids called it at school. Their Moms and Dads apparently hadn’t ever hit a bad patch for long enough to make them swallow their pride and stand in line to feed their kids. Nearly every day, I heard all about the lazy, good-for-nuthins that stood in line for food they did not earn or deserve. Kids learn a lot from their parents, I guess, so I got to hear firsthand from my classmates how lazy, stupid, and selfish we were—especially my old man. It ate me up to hear how awful we were for taking handouts and no matter what I said nobody gave a good shit that my Dad worked his ass off. When he got laid off, he did everything he could to provide. He worked odd jobs for those in our rural town that could afford to hire a helper. He fixed things for family and friends. He picked bottles and cans to cash in on the deposit money. And when things got tight in the fall and winter, he shot deer so we had meat on the table and waiting in the freezer. Dad applied for jobs, spent lots of time at the unemployment office, and was always busy never giving up. Eventually, he got hired back at the factory and made a very good living. One that gave us everything we would ever need. We weren’t rich by any means, but he worked for decades not because he liked ruining his lungs with shop air, and not because he wanted to lose his hearing to shop machines, but because he wanted to give his wife and kids a good life. And because he got a little lift in the form of a social welfare program. Hell, that little boost coupled with his tenacity and devotion carries on into today.
For the most part, I don’t fuck around. My wife and kids come first. And I do everything I can to make sure that ends meet and overlap so that there’s at least a little left over to give. But still, on a night like this—kids just put to bed in their cozy rooms, my wife sipping wine watching high def TV, and me at these keys sipping vodka and Sprite as nine bells call out from the church down the street—I know I’m not doing enough. None of us are.
Less than a mile away, there’s a third grade boy dreading going to school tomorrow because he’ll be teased for wearing hand-me-downs.
Down 2nd Avenue, just north of the bridge, there’s a little girl that just wants a warm bath.
Somewhere in this sleepy lakeshore town coined as a “warm and friendly port,” there’s a man that’s made some bad decisions, but doesn’t deserve to be sleeping on a concrete slab.
Everywhere at every moment there’s a spirit that needs a lift and yet we choose to walk away. We judge quickly and embrace cynicism because it’s easy. We don’t want to think. We don’t want to feel. We just want to live our own little lives and don’t want to be bothered. And when we do this, we die a little. Oh, it’s imperceptible. It can be ignored. Shrugged off. After all, it’s our money and our own life we’re looking out for. We do a fine job of distracting ourselves from what’s really important quite easily. We buy shit we don’t need. We’re afraid to believe. And we follow like sheep. Donating to political campaigns and scrolling through Facebook all along the way. Little do we know, those little deaths all add up and eventually the light is pulled away.
Poem’s audio below…honey, I even got a little throat clearing in for you at the end.;-)
I don’t post as much as some people do. That’s for good reason. There are too many dummies doing so already. People posting too much shit that is selfish, mean, hurtful, and downright stupid. For instance, I am happy that so-and-so helped a homeless person today, or saved a duck, or paid it forward in some way or the other, but the point of doing good deeds is to simply do them and not draw recognition to oneself. And yet, everyone is look at me. You, S.B., are not like that. Even at our wedding you insisted that all eyes NOT be on you. You just wanted to get married, to be together, and for everyone to have a good time. And that’s why sometimes you’ll catch me just looking at you. I’m amazed.
And then there are the religious geniuses—most of them blinded instead of enlightened—damning people because they are different, spewing evil, nastiness and ignorance. God hates this type of person. This group is going to hell. I follow my husband blindly. I am obedient. His servant. Blah, blah, blah. If they had any inkling of what it’s like to live a good life, they’d be living like you, S.B. You are the definition of kindness. You bring hope. You are the embodiment of strength and independence. And you make me and our kids believe that there are much greater things going on behind the scenes than what we engage on the surface. If people were as selfless and sensible as you are, they’d take more time out of their day to focus on others. The world would be a better place if it followed you.
There are the sickies, always posting how miserable they feel. I saw you give birth to a child, naturally, without shedding a tear. When you are sick, we never know it. You may take an ibuprofen if the pain starts to slow you down. But you’re never asking for attention. Posting about your sniffles or ever mentioning an ache.
There are the titsies—women that apparently can’t refrain from showing their cleavage. Oh, look at the new toaster I got with their boobies all squished together and most likely sharing their best set of duck lips. You, S.B., draw a crowd with your beautiful wide smile, your confidence, and warmth.
And finally, though there are more I could mention, there are the political gurus. We don’t have to go much into that, I suppose. I think most of us should probably follow your politics. Treat people with respect. Help everyone. Act, every day, as if there is an end that’s fast approaching. And that when it’s all said and done every single deed and every word we’ve ever written or spoken—good and bad—will be judged. Maybe not by God, but by everyone we’ve known. And that the tiny ripples of our life make big, big waves.
In summation, Happy Birthday, S.B. I thought I should post this and put it on your page because in the whole scheme of things maybe one person’s love for another will help balance out, and even defeat the shit—all the selfish, mean, hurtful, and downright stupid things—that so many others are putting into this world wide tangled web.
He’s angry at work because customer orders are going late again and again.
She’s mad because the waitress brought her a fork instead of a spoon.
Every moment, the scale moves to and fro. Negativity. Positivity. Evil and good. An unbearable state of grey. And every day we move closer to the grave. That big, secret ending working its way toward us with each step we do or do not take.
None of us get out alive. That’s what the cynics say. The realists. The smart, sometimes condescending people that don’t need faith or love or God or hope—not anything at all—because they’ve got it all figured out. Everyone is stupid. Plain and simple. Easy to wrap it up nice and tidy and forget that where we’ve come from and where we’re going is magical. Something only kids seem to understand.
As I write this, my daughter appears. She’s made me a drawing.
To dad fum Oogie, it says.
There is a sun at the bottom of the page and a sun at the top. There is a flower growing out of the sky and a flower growing out of the ground. In the middle of the page is a giant, smiling frog.
For about fifteen minutes tonight, my little girl sat on her bed thinking of nothing else but making something nice for someone else. Her dad.
What did I do for even five minutes today that made that much difference in the world?
What did you do?
It’s hard to believe that a dead baby was found in a dumpster today.
That there was a double-homicide just fifteen miles away.
That a man climbed a giant TV tower to freefall through the sky only to discover his parachute wouldn’t open.
It is chaos, not God, they’ll say. All randomness and nothingness and science and facts and proof and theories and psychology and whatever else they can come up with to make themselves feel like that’ve got a handle on life. That they’re in control.
And tomorrow, they’ll be angry again.
Frustrated because equipment was delivered to the wrong dock.
Disgusted because the cashier at the counter was chewing gum.
But the magic will continue. As it always does. In mysterious ways.
A girl will paint a picture. A boy will share his lunch. Children will keep trying, again and again, to overcome the bad, the evil, the negativity with nothing but innocence and good.