Saturday, April 4, 2009

Wake Up, Maggie I guess I've Got Something To Say To You

He comes my door. He looks 80, he is 60. He asks for work, ' Neccisita trabajar? ' Sure. Sure there is work that needs to be done, a lot of it. The front yard needs mowing, clipping, the back yard needs weeding, mowing and clipping. Dirt needs to be shoveled. In the brown leather wallet my Grandma Elizabeth gave me for my birthday before she got too sick with Parkinson's to buy birthday presents anymore, I have $120 dollars, all of which is being given to COX for phone, television and internet, the things that are our households pleasure activities, what we can afford for entertainment, outside of the bookstores, hiking and free outside activities we do regularly.

We have a four bedroom house with an enormous and beautiful sunroom, where I am typing this now. We have four cats and two dogs and three children and medical bills that could ruin a small country. We pay the minimum balance on our bills every month and have no credit cards or debt outside of my medical and his IRS from the business folding, ie: no pleasure debts. We are lucky to have Grandparents for our children who pay for their summer camp and school activities. We rent a room in our home. We work full time. We take classes at community college when we can. My car is making a loud clicking noise when I press the gas and is going to die anyday now, and we have no money to fix it. We are not making it, but we are making it. We are afloat on top of a sewer.

He has no home. He has left his entire family back in Tijuana to walk the suburban streets of San Diego and knock on thick wooden doors to ask for work. He wears the same jeans, cowboy boots, belt and shirt every day, and a hooded sweatshirt when it is cold. Sometimes he rides a bike the local church donated. He stands in front of Vons looking for work on weekends. His face is deeply lined, his body lean and compact. He spends hours each day walking. He does manual labor in strangers houses, for less than minimum wage. He has no health insurance, and if anything goes wrong that is not an emergency, he has nowhere to go for help. He has spent his entire life working very hard and has no savings, no house, no knowledge that there is any kind of better future waiting for him, no money for luxeries and pleasures to help him forget that life is so hard.

I take out my wallet and force myself to give him the $10. I am not proud of myself. It was hard to give him a pathetic ten dollar bill in exchange for his hard work. I could give up my coffee for a week and that would be his meal. I watch him leave with bag of food I handed him and think about him, and then I think about myself. What kind of life do I want to live? What kind of person do I want to be? What the fuck really matters to me in this life?

What really matters?



' What we do for ourselves dies with us. What we do for others remains and is immortal. '- Albert Pike
Mary@Holy Mackerel said...

Good question, and one that we all need to think about and answer.

I complain a lot (usually inside my head) about how bad we have it, how I wish we could afford to do the things everyone else seems to be doing, affording, etc.

I need to shut up and just be happy I have a 4-bdrm house, a working husband who loves me, 2 great kids who are relatively healthy, pets who adore us and keep us sane, and food and clothing.

I really have nothing at all to complain about. Nothing.

I just need to shut up and be happy.

Thank you for reminding me of this.

Vashti said...

It doesnt take much! Today I spent the day in a squatter camp working with a load of kids. One was 12 years old and 7 months pregnant by her uncle. She cried and I held her hand. It doesnt take much.
And we all can do much!
Love to you today my friend.
xx

Jasmine said...

ugh. that really puts things into perspective. it's so easy to get caught up in our own lives and our own problems and to forget about the lives of others. even though it was difficult for you, it was really good of you to help him out.

Ms. Moon said...

Maggie May- Your soul is very vulnerable. Your heart is so very kind.

Purest Green said...

What a tough read. Do what you can, and shun the guilt. Love your family, show patience and care for your fellow human beings. Guilt tells you that what you have to give is never enough. Love tells you that it is.

Vic said...

There's always someone with a heavier burden. It's good to be reminded of that.

Jeanne said...

Do you ever fantasize about having the money to take someone like that and put them into a middle-class American lifestyle?
When I have that daydream, my subject always winds up on cocaine or something, just like when we fuck with the environment trying to make things "better."

Ten bucks and some food may very well be the best thing you could give him.

FrankandMary said...

From many of the words I've read in your blog you are not one of the people refusing to take on the realities of life. You seem to do it all the time. If you've been doing the bitch-moan dance, I have missed it. And I love the way you told this, you didn't make yourself gracious or OVER WILLING, you were REAL. ~Mary

steenky bee said...

The economy has taught me some important lessons lately. Who am I to complain that I can't have everything I want right now. There's always someone out there in a worse situation. You post was beautiful, as always.

Lola said...

Good question is right! I've been looking at it in the reverse for a while now and letting go of lots of things that don't really matter to me anymore. It feels pretty darn good.

These times we live in, I don't know. So much sadness all around. You answered the door, and you did what you could. That's better than what a lot of people would do. You're a good person, Maggie!

Woman in a Window said...

Shit, Maggie, you've got me crying. Where's the answer? I'm looking for one of my own.

wendy said...

What *is* important? Do we even know? Are we so full of what should be that we complain with what is when our *what is* is better than someone elses *should be*?

Thanks for this.

Irish Gumbo said...

What really matters is, having a reason to put your feet on the floor in the morning...

...place, warm and dry...
...food, safe and good...
...having something to give a damn about, because it makes you feel human...

...having someone give a damn about you, and make you feel human...

...knowing that you haven't contributed to the general misery to be found in this world...

...and knowing that something you did may have actually helped someone find one or more of the things listed above.

Peace,
IG

FireLight said...

Maggie, this is a very important story for the times. It may look different near the West Coast than in the Deep South, but the problem is the same: Older citizens, still work daylight to dark, just for enough to feed and dress themselves--and maybe just maybe that coat I gave to Lola, and the extra casserole helped last winter. Lola comes knocking at my door about once or twice a year whenever her regular family is on a vacation. She tells me about the families that once lived on my street that she worked for. I don't have a maid, but I always have something that needs doing. In the summer, she will come knocking again, but she always brings me tomatoes as a gift of thanks. I give her a little cash and say it is for some new tomato plants next year. She must be 80, at least. God, please let her come again.

Lacey said...

I wonder if people realize what a profound effect they have on our lives. Sometimes I want to SHAKE the people that come to our door, and tell them to go somewhere where families actually have spare cash to give, but then I kinda-sorta realize that here is as good of a place to beg as any, because here everyone realizes how BIG "surviving" really is. Even still, I want to shake those people anyway and tell them what they mean, that they've left a lasting impression, and that they're not ghosts. Sometimes just knowing you mean something is better than bag full of spare change (of course I can only say that because I have a bag full of spare change...).

This was a beautiful and much needed post.

Jennifer Hudson Taylor said...

I think that it's important to make others feel worthy when we can. Great response to an unexpected situation.

anymommy said...

I don't have any answers, but I think you did a lot. You didn't turn away and pretend you couldn't see.

Collin Kelley said...

Your posts and this blog continue to be a beacon, Maggie. I know times are rough for you and so many people, but there's a little light shining here. Thanks for that.

Robin said...

maggie mae you are so kind. it breaks my heart to see people like that working their asses off and yet there is something so romantic about it- that they would work their bodies to the core for pennies to take care of their families. if your room for rent ever becomes available, we want it!

Erin said...

I think kindness is always the right thing, that's always what matters. And if you can sacrifice something--even just a little something--to help someone else, that's all that can really be asked of you. (Asked by whom? Well, that's up to you to decide, really. God? The Universe? Yourself?)

Girl On A Journey said...

The world really isnt fair is it.

Bee said...

This post makes me think about several things -- one of them being that the most generous people are often the ones who don't have much themselves . . . but know exactly what it is to need and want.

alissa said...

what a perspective. the beautiful thing is that you thought about - you question it, you ask what you can do.
its easy to forget how blessed we are.

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