Sunday, January 20, 2008
The ants go marching~
You know that awful feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when you see something sad? For me it feels like tiny ants crawling in circles, a faint but decidedly unpleasant swirl of emotion trapped inside.
I feel it when I see injured or abused animals. A bird with a broken wing flapping on the roadside, an abandoned nest of baby rabbits, and a skunk trapped in netting. Even the struggling mouse my cat proudly brings home in her mouth makes the ants crawl.
The pictures MSPCA posts regularly in the newspaper accompanied by sorrowful stories of lonely abandoned animals give me the feeling. The sad, but hopeful, eyes looking into the camera beg, "Come love me. Take me home." It crushes me.
I distract myself. I move on. The ants go to sleep. I don't forget, exactly. I just don't try to remember.
Yesterday we drove through Boston on our way to one of David's basketball games. Like all cities, Boston has its homeless, its wounded, its "invisible" people. Each has his territory; real estate is precious along heavily trafficked roads where cars line up at red lights.
Some sell flowers, some wash windshields, some carry a can from car to car hoping for change. And yesterday as we sat in the long line waiting for the green light, a man with both legs bound in braces limped between the lanes of cars. His cardboard sign-- neatly printed, all words spelled correctly-- said "I need money for knee replacements. I'm embarrassed, but there is nothing else I can do."
The ants crawled.
The man looked neither left nor right, no hope in his eyes. No one rolled down a car window; no one offered a fistful of change. We didn't either.
I said to Bruce, "I feel so bad for him, but for sure he won't put any money he gets toward a knee replacement."
He'll buy wine or street drugs with his daily take. If I offered to drive him to an orthopedist and pay for the operation, he'd have looked at me like I was crazy. He'd rather have a dollar.
"How do you even know he needs a knee replacement?" Bruce asked.
"I know, but it's still so sad that he's reduced to this."
"Reduced to what?" said Bruce. "He could get a job." Getting a job is Bruce's cure for the homeless. I think this hard practicality is how he keeps his ants from crawling.
But it isn't this simple. There are no jobs for the mentally ill, the drug addicted, except to panhandle for a daily wage.
And it makes me feel that awful sensation in the pit of my stomach when I see such helpless suffering when there is nothing I can do.
“It is not necessary to advertise food to hungry people, fuel to cold people, or houses to the homeless.”~John Kenneth Galbraith