Friday, June 10, 2011

Musings and Ponderings

Today I am meeting climbing friend Randy and we will head to Yosemite Valley.  An overnight at a hotel in Fresno has allowed me to reorganize, clean up and do laundry.  It has also allowed time for some catch up on email, calls, blogging, etc.

What I have not yet had the opportunity to blog about here is the contemplations and observations I make while on the road.  Additionally, I have all along desired to give something back to the places where I land whenever and however possible.  In many ways this trip feels selfish.  I realize how fortunate I am to be able to afford such a journey and to have a spouse, good friends and family supporting and encouraging me. Traveling across the US by car has a unique way of opening the eyes, mind and heart to things which would otherwise go unnoticed.  Our recent hard economic times are visible in some places more than others.

In Fresno last night, I needed to pick up some reading glasses (I've lost and trashed most pairs since leaving Vermont).  So as I plodded towards the discount store's automatic glass door entrance, I heard soft voices off my left shoulder, seemingly pleading for help.  I immediately felt the swell of feelings associated with ignoring or acknowledging a fellow human being in need.  Why is it that our first instinct is to ignore and keep walking, pretending we do not hear or notice?  And what if this instinct is overcome by feelings of shame and responsibility? How do we help others and how do we judge the level of assistance needed while weighing our own ability to give? I doubt I will ever know the answers, so I must accept that I will take it as it comes.

The young woman and presumably her son (I guess 10 years of age) were holding a small cardboard sign asking for money.  I turned - I approached them - I inquired. Why do you need money? What has happened to you? What has brought you to this point?  The answers remained unclear as the language barrier was too great.  I attempted to understand and inquire with my worst Spanish - all I could decipher was that she had no home and little to no food for her family.

I fussed through my wallet looking for small bills and handed over what I thought I could. Anxious scrutiny rushed into my mind. How much is enough? Could this amount really help? Why don't I give more? How do I know they aren't scamming me? Why does the little voice in my head even ask the scam question? What's the difference? How could it possibly be a scam if they are standing on the street asking for a few dollars or spare change? Why do some have so much and others so little?

Of course they were grateful for what I gave them. I don't think they have much success there though. But perhaps it is all they have for now.  I would have rather taken them out for a meal and tried to find them the help they really need.  But somehow my own needs and schedule comes first - there seems to be a thousand reasons why I cannot stop what I am doing to help someone else.  Is this really how it works? My best answer at least for now is to admit that I am more vulnerable than usual while I travel on this journey.  With time to contemplate and absorb coupled with my own personal objectives, I will likely continue to ponder these questions and look for ways to bring some kindness to someone else. More often than not I likely fail.

While in Idyllwild last week, I hoped to find some volunteer work during my rest day.  I asked a few businesses in town if they needed help - even the library had to turn me away because of the paperwork necessary to accept a volunteer. There are a lot of needy folks in that town although all that is visible to the less-discerning eye is booming retail shops, mountain lodging and dining establishments for the tourist-types. The librarian informed me of the Community Help Center in town, so off I went to find them.  They provide clothing, a food pantry and other types of assistance to the eligible needy I guess.  Inevitably, I failed at this as well since the help center is closed on Mondays.  When all such attempts fail, I pick up litter.  By the end of this trip I should be able to make a pretty good comparison of the dirtiest and cleanest communities I pass through.  Hmmm, another musing for a future post perhaps.

1 comment:

  1. Dear Jean, with that voice in your head. Nice of you to give at all. You are a good person so quit feeling guilty. Keep picking up the litter. Selfishness only deepens when worrying about itself. This trip can only be as beautiful as you will allow. And it sounds like it's been pretty nice so far!

    The Help Center is closed on Mondays. Keep picking up the litter. If that helpful little light in your heart stays lit, it will draw some need toward you. Or not. Happy trails Tinkerbell!