Sure, I think it’s great that people donate. I think that charity comes from the heart. Of course it does. It’s great when people get out of their house at least once a year and head down to the local homeless shelter. They hand out presents on Christmas or serve food on Thanksgiving.
Sure . . .
I think it’s great. My challenge is not the charitable heart; but more, I become frustrated with virtue signaling. I can’t stand the hand in the air as if to say, “Look at me. Look at what I’m doing!” as if their work automatically gets them a seat for the resurrection.
There is a story, which I often think about and perhaps I’ve shared (or overshared) this before but it’s time to share this again. Maybe it’s the time of year. Or, maybe it’s the things I hear people say. Maybe it’s my frustration with humanity or the so-called Stigma Free warriors who claim to “Give” and tell the world how “Involved” they are.
I listened to a person tell me about their opinion and discuss the homeless population. She was a woman of considerable wealth. I listened to her tell me about the conditions that homeless people live with. Then she told me that I didn’t know and that I didn’t care. Meanwhile, the cost of her clothing and handbag was more than my mortgage.
She was telling me that I am lucky to be who I am. She said that I am lucky to have the advantages. She constantly referred to the “Homeless” as if they were these poor creatures.
By the way, this stemmed from a conversation that had nothing to do with me. I was simply a repair man in the same room. But more, this was a woman in a lunchroom at work. She was telling her coworkers what she does on Thanksgiving, which is great.
Sure it is.
The woman and her family go to the homeless shelter and, together, they feed the homeless on Thanksgiving. I don’t know how I got dragged into this, but I did. I think the story changes as years move between then and now. I still shake my head over this but in any case, here it goes.
The woman chastised me. She charged me with not caring. I was told that I am privileged, that I don’t know and that I don’t care about the homeless.
I lost my patience but not my cool.
Straight faced and slightly intense with eyes that showed, “Now it’s my turn,” I told the woman, “I know more about it than you do.”
And again, she went into her diatribe. She told me about her trips to the shelter on Thanksgiving.
“And that’s great,” I said.
“I’m sure the people really appreciated your service.”
My question that followed triggered an unsettled response.
I simply asked, “What do you do for the rest of the year?”
The woman flipped out.
“And what do you do?” she asked.
Well, the first thing I do is I don’t ever refer to people as “Homeless.”
In fact, I coached an empowerment class every Sunday for more than two years at a shelter in Northern New Jersey and do you know what I never called any of the guests at the shelter?
Homeless . . .
I was on the phone with people in the middle of the night because they were dying from an epidemic that is far from new.
I am no better, no worse, no smarter, no more or less educated. I am not more worthy than they are nor are they more worthy than me. We are all people. And that’s it.
I remember when someone told me that in the end, we all go into the same sized box. And the box gets buried in the ground. Period. End of sentence.
We are all one mistake away from tragedy and devastation. Life happens to everyone and sure, there are people with privileges. There are people who have more and there are people who have less. There are people who subscribe to the race theories and there are people who claim to be “Woke.” Am I woke?
No. Maybe I’m mindless. Maybe I’m crazy. Maybe I’m hopeless and hopeful or, maybe the opinion of who I am is none of my business.
There are people who talk about who they are, what they do and how their social justice views need to be heard. Dammit all if you disagree with anything then obviously you’re either wrong, a racist or you need to go to hell.
I decided that I do not like what I see. I decided to remove myself from social forums that discuss their political ideas. I do not write to my politicians. I vote, which to be clear, who knows who counts the votes?
I remember a long time ago, I was sleeping in an outdoor stairwell behind a strip mall because I was on the run for a few days.
I remember there was a brown door and forgive me because this is an old memory that has been shaded over the years; plus, my condition back then was much less than sober.
I remember there was a statement that was spray painted in white on the brown door, which said, “No Government Can Ever Give You Freedom.”
I remember another wall in my town behind the arcade over on Front Street and dare I age myself because arcades seem to be a thing of the past and dare I expose myself because my reason for being behind the arcade was less than innocent and fueled by a lethal substance but wait, before I digress any further, I remember the saying that was graffitied with black spray paint on yellow bricks.
It said, “Who watches the watchmen?”
Decades later, I learned that this was taken from a Latin phrase that went, “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes,” which translates to “Who will guard the guards.” The meaning behind this is to outline that there are those who are in power but who watches them? Who holds them accountable?
So, as for my vote or my views of politics, I am not a conspiracy theorist or anything of the sort. I’m just cautious with my beliefs in the systems we have in place.
But for the record, I think it’s great to vote. I think it’s great to have beliefs that root deeply and to feel so strongly and passionately. I think we need this in our life. However, I do not depend on my congressperson or representatives. I do not depend on the local government. I’m not interested in people who smile to look pretty for the camera or to catch your vote.
I growled at a town’s mayor once. I was about to do a presentation on bullying and addiction.
I’m pretty sure that poor bastard had no idea what was coming. I was loud. I refused the microphone, I was assertive and borderline aggressive but to hell with it: what I did was impactful.
I made a choice. I understand that in order to fly, a bird needs both wings; therefore, I understand that there are two wings of government. I understand that views do not match and opinions vary. And that’s fine.
No, really. It is.
We need differences in our lives. We need diversity. We need to know there are different sides to our community. Not everything is as it seems. Not everyone cares. And not everyone is callus either.
I am not the left nor the right. Instead, I want to be a part of the heart. I want to be part of the heartbeat in this country. I would rather lace up my boots and be a soldier on the ground. I would rather make a difference than wave my hand and tell people, “Look at me! Over here!” and virtue signal with the best of them.
I remember leaning into the woman in the lunchroom. I only did this because she charged me. And I don’t have to defend myself. I certainly do not have to tell anyone about my personal life nor do I have to qualify as “Woke” because of the interracial qualities in my family.
And I don’t know why I chose to fight back.
Who was I trying to impress or intimidate?
She was an asshole, right?
So, then why did I respond?
I’m not sure if I needed to say anything because deep down, I know who I am.
Is talking about this story a signal in itself?
This is not my intention, but one could argue that this is virtue signaling.
I would like to offer this: Racism is real. Stigma is real. To be free of this seems impossible to me. Our assumptions and cultural biases lead us towards inaccuracies. And, until we end this, I don’t see how we can escape the challenges we face as a society.
And dig it –
I love it when people teach me about racism. I love it when people tell me I’m racist. My oldest daughter and I laugh about this. (She’s black, by the way.)
Whenever I am told that I am inherently racist, it makes me wonder because it is usually told to me by someone with pale white skin. And they tell me that I don’t know the truth. They tell me that I am lucky and blessed and that I should thank God the Almighty in heaven above for who I am.
But who am I?
I’m just another person on this huge conveyor belt we call Project Earth.
And for the record, I do thank God.
I am thankful that I do not involve myself with quarrels and arguments and talks like this because talking is not what I want to do. I want to act. I want to make a difference. I want to be the best “Me” and be able to face myself at the end of the day with an accomplished sense of civic responsibility. I want to improve and I want to be a part of the everyday life of my community.
I don’t need a soapbox. Besides, I’d rather lace up my boots and get my hands dirty.
Man, there’s a lot going on with my City.
I don’t have time to pick fights or complain about mask mandates, vaccinations or politics. There’s too much work to do. Plus, nothing gets done when people argue.
So, let me roll up my sleeves. Let me work.
I was told, “It’s worth it, even if you only help one person.”
I suppose this is true. At one point, I suppose I was that “One” person. Not to say that I was homeless but I have my fair share of war stories.
Either way, I’d rather aim higher and help more than one person.
By the way, I never see that woman who feeds the “Homeless” anymore.
Her company is no longer in the building where I work.
Besides, she used to avoid me like the plague after our little talk.
I suppose my information made her uncomfortable.
I say that’s good.
That means she’s woke now.