It’s been a strange few days. Some pretty rough storms early last week canceled our plans for the 4th holiday so that we stayed home and watched east coast fireworks on television and then tried to get some sleep between the neighbors blasting fireworks. Okay, only once a year so we can deal with it. More storms the next day knocked out the electricity from mid afternoon until about nine thirty the following morning. It was a long hot night without the air conditioning. Great timing from the electric company restored power about half an hour after we got the generator going and plugged in to the necessities (fridge and television).
With creature comforts restored we could catch up on the news. What a shame that the only way to stop hearing the same old politics on all channels is for tragedy to strike. And strike it did. First two black men killed by police then the horror in Dallas. It seems to me that I have had this what the hell is wrong with people feeling over and over. I just don’t know how to process this shock and disgust anymore. Everywhere; neighbors at the grocery, all over social media, on the news and in the papers, blame is assigned. It’s guns. It’s racism. We made god mad. It’s payback for some dumb thing in the past. Baloney. I say baloney because I am trying not to say bull shit so much.
The questions I ask myself when these events occur are probably the same as most others ask. What can we do? More particularly, what can I do? I feel certain that racists and bullies should not be police officers, but can I do anything about that? I could approach the sheriff and chief of police where I live and state my concerns. Whether or not that would have any effect depends on how it’s received and whether these individuals are genuinely concerned about this issue. I could write letters to elected officials but it has been my past experience that these are not acknowledged or are only acknowledged with a condescending form letter. Maybe I will try anyway. I am equally certain that dangerous or disturbed individuals should not have access to deadly weapons. It is painfully clear that doing anything about that is not possible in the USA.
That leaves me with what can I really do? All I can come up with is do whatever you can wherever you are. When you are among people try greeting them instead of ignoring them. Say thank you to the man who carries out your groceries and to the stranger who opened a door for you. If you see someone drop something pick it up and give it to them. Put someone’s need ahead of your desire. If someone new moves into your neighborhood go say hello and welcome them. The world may not get better from one person’s kindness and consideration of others, but that person’s world will feel better.
Yesterday I made up my mind to find a way to show some kindness to a stranger. Not as easy as you might think since I mostly stay at home. I did however need to get groceries so I made myself concentrate on the people I came in contact with and to smile or speak instead of keeping my eye on the shelves and minding my own business to an unnecessary degree. Most folks smiled back and I got to checkout feeling more relaxed than usual. The person bagging my stuff was not very fast and not all that skilled, but I thanked her anyway as she seemed to be doing her best. There was an elderly lady, even older than me, loading bags into her trunk so I stopped long enough to help her out. She wasn’t all that grateful, but her gratitude was not my goal in the first place so I am glad I made her chore a little easier.
All those things I think I can manage to continue to do regularly, for the purely selfish reason that I feel better when I am nice to people. A good opportunity presented itself as I pulled into the driveway of my house and spotted a man cleaning up the neighbors yard. This neighbor is not able to do much and with all the rain we have had his lawn and all the bushes around his house were a huge mess. The day was very hot and I noticed the man doing the work was sweaty with a rag tied around his head to protect from the sun. He stopped to lean on the shovel he was using, waived and said “How you doin?” As soon as I had put things away I poured some lemonade into a to go cup and walked over to offer that to him. He put his hand out and introduced himself as Lional and asked my name. We had a short visit. He wished me a good day and I wished him the same.
This is not a life changing event for either of us. But maybe I will not be reluctant to approach another stranger to offer some kindness just because he is black. And maybe Lionel will consider it more likely that a white person respects him because one woman did. For now this is the best I can do.