Saturday, January 21, 2017

My Stupid, Stupid, Heart

Not sure if it's because of the number of times my mother washed my mouth out with it but I developed a taste for soap. Now you won't find me wandering the aisles of fancy toiletries shops sniffing at gently scented find milled bars of soap produced from the milk Yaks who only ate clover. You will however find me in Winners or Marshals along with others who are as unaware as I about the effect of clover diets on a bar of soap. I like a nice soap.

Two days ago, Joe placed a new bar, a nice one made from goats milk just in case you want to know, on the tray in the shower. He set it on the stub left from the other one. That one had been a black soap that produced the nicest lather. I remembered, when I saw the new bar, all nice and plump, sitting there tempting me, about the first time I'd washed with the other soap. How clean it made me feel. I started to feel a bit sorry for it. I mean there was more left, it would last another week or so, it still had much to give.

I reached for it and it dropped from my hand and slid to the drain. It was too far away for me to reach. Again, I felt almost pity for it. I did. Really. But I grabbed the new soap and began my shower routine. When I was done I noticed the old soap, all soggy from being submerged in the flow from the shower, I called to Joe to rescue it and put it back on the tray. It didn't deserve to be treated that way.

A few days later we were out and about and we came upon a old fellow, sitting on cardboard, leaned against the wall of a building, with his cap out, asking for money. He had an old sign beside him, but it was so covered in grime that it was illegible. I carry with me $5.00 gift cards for Tims, a coffee shop that's easy to find pretty much where ever you are. I stopped and gave him one of those cards, he smiled and said that he'd use it to go get a coffee and to get warm when he couldn't take the cold any longer.

He opened a little bag, resting by his side, attached to him by a long strap over the opposite shoulder. He wanted to place the card carefully among the stuff he had in there. We were still chatting and I notice a small stub of soap placed lovingly in his bag.

A stub of soap.

My stupid, stupid, heart.

I realized that I had got all attached and imbued an inanimate object with feelings and humanity, a piece of soap for heaven's sake, and yet, even in this interaction, even with giving him the card, even with our brief chat, I didn't feel those things for him. Not really. Not deeply. I sat there stunned.

Accused by a piece of soap.

My stupid, stupid heart.

I discovered that humanity is something that, in my mind, I have the power to grant to people, to things, to the lonely tree behind my apartment building. And because I have the power to grant it, I also have the power to withhold it. Not anyone's actual humanity, but my willingness to accede to it in how I see them.

I don't want that to be under my power, my wish.

I want the ability to see the humanity of every person I meet hard wired into my brain. I don't want to be able to separate some from the herd.

But I am able.

And I do.

Because of my stupid, stupid heart.

6 comments:

Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt said...

Soap is easy. It asks nothing of you. Loving it costs you nothing in hard work.

That man - and every one like him - is a problem you can't solve. You can make the tiniest of dents in him as a problem, and you already do far more than most people by carrying the cards ready for use. But it is frustrating to know you can't help enough.

I like your solution of something the man can use.

And he gave you something back: insight. Even if you had to do the hard work yourself. And he gave me insight because you shared yours with us.

Your heart isn't stupid. It just can't fix the world by itself. Continue to be kind. It all matters.

Tam said...

Thank you. This is a powerful message that I needed to be reminded of.

Purpletta said...

Alice- Your intent may be different than my understanding of your note, but I have to take exception to the idea that "the man...is a problem" and further to the idea of categorizing a larger group as "every one like him." It may seem like an issue of simple semantics but words do matter. And people are not problems. People can experience problems. But unless someone is doing something intentionally adversarially to your person, it doesn't seem that any of us has the right to call any other of us "a problem." People who experience homelessness are no more like one another than people with disabilities. Saying "every one like her," referencing a person with a disability and a broader group of people with disabilities, would cause upset, rightfully so, among readers here. Moreover, suggesting someone with a disability is "a problem" would upset every one of us. We can associate with disability but need to try to bring ourselves to associate with the challenges experienced by others in order to see one another's humanity. It's hard work. My own heart is far worse than Dave's as he describes it. But we are all a work in progress.
--Purpletta

Purpletta said...

Sorry Alicia - I typed your name wrong as Alice - my apologies

Ron Arnold said...

Interesting . . . because acknowledging a person's humanity DOES set them apart form the herd. In the herd - there is no humanity, just a set of assumptions about the herd. I got your gist, but I found it very illustrative of a separate point I guess. When we acknowledge a person's humanity - we also acknowledge their individuality - their person-ness as opposed to any affiliation (and therefore characteristics) we assign to them.

I wanna march about it sometime . . . but I fear I'd get lost in the herd . . . .

Frank_V said...

To a Zen Buddhist like me, EVERYTHING, and EVERYONE deserves equal treatment. Respect, care, understanding, attention, focus, love. From the blade of grass, to the highest mountain, from the ant, to every living entity, it all matters.