When you step out of your ordinary life and start interacting with people, you are witness to things that just can't be made up. I once heard a hooker negotiate a trick in transit for the low, low price of several of those really tiny bottles of liquor. You know the sample-sized bottles that fit in the palm of your hand. They chugged them in the back of the bus, both parties exited at the next stop, and what happened next is anyone's guess. I also saw an entire busload of strangers band together in defense of a young man, maybe 12 years old, who was getting harassed on the metro while holding tightly onto a gigantic art project for school. Surprisingly, no one ever tried to steal my belongings, although I can assure you that I was very careful and kept them on my person at all times. More than anything, what I saw was an incredible amount of loneliness and sadness. Heartbreak, misery, lunacy. Desperation. One woman who was headed to the shelter and hoping for a hot meal told me how she'd lost her husband and kids due to a drug addiction. She said she'd do anything to get them back and showed me a well-creased photo of a smiling family, mother and father each holding a toddler and I realized this had happened a long time ago. She cried and trembled the whole time she told me this story and practically ripped my heart right out of my chest. I stayed on the bus for two extra stops just to hear it. Then she asked me if I could give her a fix or some money so she could get a fix. Evidently, she'd do anything to get her family back except kick the habit. I'll admit, I don't understand these people, and I happen to believe that some (most?) of this pain is self-inflicted.
I'm living a pretty comfortable life right now, which I don't feel too guilty about because I worked my ass off for it. But that doesn't mean I don't remember what it was like to pull all the cushions off the couch and search under the car mats for change to buy cigarettes or milk. I remember very clearly. And I chose those two items intentionally because back then, in that life, cigarettes and milk seemed equally important. I'll admit, I didn't always make the wisest of decisions, but at some point I realized that I needed to take responsibility for my life and where it was heading. I am all too familiar with people who have addictions and don't live responsibly and frankly, I can't summon up much sympathy for them when they run their lives into the ground and end up begging for money on the streets. What did they think was going to happen? I don't care who you are, if you grew up in the United States, you know that drugs are bad. There are billboards, afterschool specials, and pep rallies at school telling you that.
All you have to do is look around you. Jesus, you have to deflect at least one beggar just stopping at the grocery store to pick up a few things for dinner. Here in Albuquerque there are drunks and druggies wandering the streets all day long, every day. Don't get me wrong - I actually do give people money sometimes and I always have, even when I had much less. I'm kind of a sucker like that. But when I think about people around the globe who don't have clean water, or a place to live, sometimes I'm ashamed of our prosperity and the many different ways that we squander it or take it for granted. There are people in this world who have to watch their children starve to death right in front of their eyes because there simply is no food to be had. People who are brutally murdered because of wars that don't have anything to do with them and that they care nothing about. I've gotten off on a strange tangent here - my apologies. I think what I'm trying to say is that humans are a strange lot. In many cases, we're our own worst enemy. We make bad decisions, run our lives poorly, and then sit around and hope someone will fix it for us. The world is harsh enough without us making it harder for ourselves. We're lucky we were born here, instead of in some war-torn third world country. I just wish we could all take a little more responsibility for our own lives and be a little nicer to one another. Oh, and then I'd like to buy the world a Coke and keep it company.
World Food Programme
Stop Hunger Now
Not For Sale