Friday, June 18, 2010
At some point in life we all become helpless. We're born helpless, we die helpless and in between we try to dodge life's many bullets aimed at rendering us helpless. Most of us get by all right, but not without at least a flesh wound or two.
There's only one thing that really matters when you're at rock bottom, and it isn't God or inner strength. It has nothing to do with 'be all you can be', or any of that buddhist crap. When you're helpless, really helpless, lying in the gutter of life (literally or otherwise-) you can't do shit and God is a distant memory at best . All your combative energy has long been drained, and those remnants of resistance you're still feeling are nothing more than spasms, like the twitching leg of a deer that was just run over by a pickup.
When you're like that, when you've fallen all the way down, what you need most is someone else. Mother, father, brother, friend or even a total stranger. Just, somebody. Somebody to give you a job, to listen to your story, take the kids off your hands for a couple of days, pay this month's rent, give you a couple of bucks or simply acknowledge your existence, so you can take a little breather.
I have been there. I have been helpless. Lucky for me someone was there to pick me up, so I could take that little breather and recover from the flesh wound life had given me.
Today I could have been that someone, when I walked past a beggar who was softly banging his head against the wall behind him. Overweight, smelly and smudged, he was still more sad than repugnant (as was the small dog beside him, passed out on the sidewalk). His eyes were closed and he was muttering in silent desperation, as if he was begging to himself.
Now, I'm no sissy. I've lived in a big city for years, and all big cities are sprinkled with stories of human misery, scribbled in a few words on leftover cardboard.
"72, homeless and hungry"
"lost my job, can't feed my family"
"Starving, please help"
I pass them by every day, no questions asked. But every once and awhile, I forget to rationalize other people's miserable condition and my humanity is jolted back to life again.
Today, it was a miserable, dirty beggar, banging his head against the wall of some expensive clothing store (where three hot salesgirls where chatting with each other, for lack of customers) I could have helped him, given him a couple of bucks or at least acknowledged his existence. In fact, I could help him and people like him almost every hour of every day.
But I can't.
I can't help every beggar, every unemployed father of three, every single mother who can't afford her rent, every 50 year old who just got laid off. But I want someone to help them. Or something.