Bus Stops & Seeing Sights
"Imagine no possessions — I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger — A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people sharing all the world, you
You may say I'm a dreamer — But I'm not the only one
I hope some day you'll join us — And the world will be as one."
—John Winston Lennon
I have patience for certain things, people, students and children, but certainly not for a lot extra, (but I'm working on it), so I RARELY take the bus. It's a thing. My friends laugh at me, but the bus is typically just way too slow for my underdeveloped skills in patience. However, in the past couple of months I've had experiences before, and after two rare bus rides close to home, that have inspired some thoughts about where we are, and where we may be going.
Last month, while waiting at the bus stop on my way to help friends with the Lego Batman® movie birthday party her son was hosting at their apartment for fourteen eight year old boys. (That's right, I said fourteen eight year old boys! My friends are really great, fun and supportive parents!!) So, naturally, I was deciding how many bottles of wine would be necessary to purchase for myself and the adult helpers of this event. As a distraction from my less than patient wait for the bus, I worked my calculations of how many glasses per adult and bottle, when I noticed a woman who appeared to be homeless. She was dancing and what a vision that was! I have no idea of what her true situation was, but this woman who looked like a person who didn't have much more than maybe the full shopping cart that was next to her, appeared to be light, happy and expressing pure joy in that moment. Though she stood nearly half a block from me, as far as I could tell, she looked to be celebrating in her ability to move her own body as she swayed at will in a regally graceful, gestured and magical manner. I saw that somewhere deep, she was quite expressive, ALIVE & FREE. She was striking.
When is the last time you felt joyful about your ability to do anything — any one thing? Everyone should, right? But it seems that if we have the ability to do mostly what we like, we often take each of those things we are able to do and 'could do' for granted. In fact we also tend not to value those things until they're taken away and we can't partake in those activities. Maybe that woman was in the space as I had interpreted, or maybe not at all. Maybe it was me who was in that space? Alive and free, anticipating a memorable time sipping wine with friends while monitoring fourteen boys all hopped up on excitement, popcorn, pizza, cup cakes and the anticipation of breaking open the homemade Lego Batman pinata — (again, my friends are really great, fun and supportive parents), that offered up a familiar warmth of inclusion and childhood fun.
As a child, I fell in love with the summer days in Minnesota, which were far opposite the incredibly cold days in winter which apparently tore up the streets. In order to preserve those streets, they were completely re-paved with tar each and every summer . Like clock-work each year, the day that the municipality re-tarred our street, my sister and I happened to be across on the other side playing in bare feet at the neighbors’ house. When my mom would call us in for dinner, the only way home was to do what we called the “ooch-eech-aaach” fast walk that was a half skip across the still cooling tar! Once across on the other side, we’d giggle while pulling chunks of warm tar from our tar stained feet before heading into the house. That was just one very fun summer tradition.
References of childhood fun make me happy, renders me giddy and feeling free. As adults though, we go through many times that challenge us to maintain a direct connection to any joyful experiences. And that is our task. Stay close to those happenings that make us feel happy, for they are the things that will help to carry us through. They are also the thread that connects us to others. When we are aware of our passions and good times, we can see and recognize them and the human bonds that we share. This is also of importance and powerful when empathizing over hard times as well. While world events seem to push up, create or reflect an "us vs. them" type of mentality, the truth really is that we are truly all one. IF we can actually begin to operate as such, the progress we could make would be astounding. Maybe we'll get there one day. I'd like to imagine that we will, but sometimes it's quite difficult to believe.
Just last week, I randomly got on the bus again, this time to head home from work. I'm still not quite sure why I chose the bus over my usual way home, but it turned out to result in a poignant and moving end for me, but you can decide for yourself. Traffic was bad and moving slow, so I was fighting my impatience by focusing on my breathing, acknowledging the satisfaction at the end of a productive day while excitedly making my way home. As the bus got about one quarter of a block from my stop, it began to turn left instead of staying straight. I assumed that there was some activity and that the bus would stop just after the turn so I wasn't worried, or annoyed, but curious about what caused the detour. Once off the bus and walking around the corner, I saw that there was police tape blocking any traffic, vehicle or human to pass. I could also see that there was more tape on the next corner to prevent any traffic coming in the other direction as well. As I crossed the street, I noticed that some people were filming with their cell phones. Something bad had happened. When I asked the woman standing next to me, she said that someone had been shot. That was unsettling not only because someone had potentially lost their life, but that this was within two blocks of my apartment, and because a teenage boy had been shot nearby just last fall. Why are these things such common occurrences? What is the perceived gain?
Well, it turned out that no one had been shot, but the natural assumption and acceptance of that as a reality is very telling of our times. Also, not so good! Though, it was not a shooting, what actually happened was also horrific and detrimental to the fabric of our human community. Here's my simplistic overview of what happened...
A man was caught shop lifting in a large chain grocery store. He was detained by store employees, who, (I'm guessing make minimum wage at best), tackled the man to the floor. The pinned man apparently expressed that he had a bad heart and that he was unable to breathe, but he was not allowed to get up. When the police arrived on the scene, though they attempted CPR, it didn't work and the man died. I want to know what he had stolen. I KNOW that whatever was in his pockets was not at all equal to the value of that man's life —NO MATTER his skin tone, community or social status, mental capacity or any other 'level' of human value/category there may now be for any particular person! People, what are we doing? Was he hungry, confused or just in need of some toothpaste that he couldn't afford? Even IF he was boosting for kicks, what do we value? In a country where anything is possible, rents are out of control even for people who work consistently and hard. Too many people are hungry and homeless, while health care is ONLY affordable to some — AND psychiatric care for many who still need it ends with a few dollars, a pat on the head and a bus ticket to the streets. Desperation lands them in your neighborhood, because you have more than they. What has become so common and so 'important' that we've forgotten that human beings are indeed human? As we are also human, please realize that our families and friends could also at any time, be on the wrong side of any of the current events that we see everyday. Two wrongs never make a right... Where oh where has our integrity gone?
Does our sense of power come from our affiliations, a job title, a badge, a certain amount of money, the neighborhood we live in or the car that we drive? What is it exactly that moves us out of the basic respect for any person outside of ourselves? Is it simply FEAR — developed into a callous and cold fascist like decision or sense of entitlement or order, for things to appear a certain way at any and all costs, that ignores all rational possibilities before we strike? As a society, we are repeating heinous actions over and over again that continue to divide us more and more each day. Whatever the arguments, that way of operating doesn't seem to be solving anything. In a country that is beautifully diverse and one that has been built by many, it is supposed to be the place where anything is possible for all —EQUALLY and PROGRESSIVELY. Where are we going? What is our destination?
IMAGINE a world where you could stand to wait for your friend in a coffee shop without being considered a threat, arrested, or potentially shot and killed for knocking on your neighbors door for help? IMAGINE what could possibly fit into your pockets that would be worth the sum total of your life or the lives of your loved ones being gone in a second? IMAGINE what memory or activity you love that could have the power to inspire you towards a joyful moment to dance in the sun, whenever you were feeling low or, feeling devalued? What brings you peace and joy in this world? Whatever it is, please find it, that memory or that action and dust it off, pull it out often and hold on to it for dear life. Then use it for your own strength. Use it towards your own inspiration. Please use it to connect to, and inspire others to SEE and BE the world that is SUPPOSED to be... Imagine if that were possible?