Welcome to the real world, glad you make it, and yes, it’s a bit of a shock, isn’t it? These words I almost rattled off in a conversation with a friend of mine recently, in discussion about a recent experience she had volunteering at a food bank. I won’t give who or where, but I can give how.
During her volunteer stint, my friend had to deal with folks who she really questioned, upon their appearance, talk, and mannerisms, why they needed assistance when it came to groceries. Although by rule, we should always delve deeper before making some assumptions about people we first meet, as my Aunt Boots used to say, first impressions count in life, honey. My friend said it really made her question her beliefs and ethics. She didn’t want to generalize, or categorically put people in a box, but this incident made it tough. Yep, I get it – everybody cloisters close with their party affiliation, and their core philosophy system, reinforcing and preaching to the choir. Then, like the proverbial bolt out of the blue – WHAM! Suddenly, it’s like, whoa, this is reality, isn’t it. Step out of your dang political comfort zone, and rooty tooty, you start questioning everything from Fiji water, to the Iowa Hawkeyes (say it ain’t so!). I don’t know about you, but whatever you line your perspectives up with, I shake it’s good for the soul to get your booty shaken once or twice.
Questioning people’s motives about an essentially free service to them is nothing new under the sun. Just put out your shingle with a sign under it that shouts “free,” and see who shows up. Free is the secret word, so I win the duck, Groucho – it’s just that there’s no such thing as free. Every form of socialism in government, and non-government services, involves somebody’s money from somewhere, which is funny that some people on the giving, or the receiving end, don’t really get that bell being rung. But I digress – this column is actually about how shocked, shocked, I tell you, that conservatives and liberals alike get, when something barrels down the field at them, to knock them over about their core beliefs.
Working at a food bank, working at a homeless shelter, seeing kids get scared about being deported even if they are of legal status, working for social services – I’ve spent a time or two working all those gigs, and you get to see the pleasant underbelly of society. It’s messy, impolite, and dirty, and you can point the finger all the way around in a circle to who’s to blame. And yet, I known card-carrying conservatives who readily help people on government assistance all day, as part of their job – realistically, with all the ups and downs. I know war vets who are liberals, who comply to most of their parties’ philosophies, except a few that would make the most hardened right-winger nod their heads in agreement. And the sad part is the truth – once you’ve been to that mountain top, and seen the rawness below, you know you’re better qualified to make a judgment on what’s right and wrong, than folks who just pay the lip service, and haven’t done the time. But if you’ve paid a cost that strengthens your resolve in what you believe is right, well, more power to you. I’m not going to change your mind, especially with my two-cents -worth opinion column.
I’m of the mind that we all have at least a handful of life experiences that open our eyes, and we walk away scarred, fragile, or afraid, or we blossom with a new viewpoint. Realizing if your opinion is healthy or not, is personal preference - you gotta deal with whatever comes your way. In a year and a half of writing my dog-and-pony show here, I’ve told personal stories of a couple of Saul-to-Paul conversions that have happened to me. I know if I really haven’t live it, meaning I’m not walking in your shoes, then I don’t know squat from shinola. It’s a personal rule, and it’s damn hard to live by daily, especially when you need to defend what you type out. Everyone has their own set of head-scratcher opinions (chess legend Bobby Fischer, who is Jewish, making anti-Semetic comments in recent years – yeah, I know, go figure). But as my friend did, who took a chance to volunteer with an open heart and mind – would an experience like that change your mind forever, reinforce a bias, or have you question what and why? Choose to address it, or not, but I don’t think there are easy answers.
The Libra in me seeks balance, and it’s a struggle, because I’m always trying to get balanced in how I conduct myself as a husband, father, friend, family member, employee, and citizen. I’m not always successful, but I do know that the slate is always clean at the end of a day, and I get the chance to start again the following day. In walking around town, and seeing how people conduct their businesses and lives, would you step forward to take a chance, especially helping someone you don’t know, for the right reasons? And if something happens that shakes your belief system, how would you respond? I would love to hear your experience.