I can clearly remember those stern St. Nicks nuns asking my not-so-eager fifth grade class what the most important Christian holiday was. With visions of sugarplums dancing in our heads, the unanimous and rather enthusiastic response was, “Christmas!”
Of course, Sister Paulina went on to explain that it was actually Easter for all sorts of theological reasons that were completely lost on a bunch of ten year-olds who couldn’t get past the prospect of presents.
So given the nature of this day, I’ve been waxing a little more philosophically than usual. And that’s always a dangerous thing. So throwing caution into that prevailing southeast wind one more time, I’ve been wondering why we move with such resolve to save abused animals, but often summarily dismiss our fellow humans who’ve had to suffer so much more.
God bless Rob Sauceda and all the folks at KC Animal Control who, acting on a tip, engaged the legal gears in such a way that more than 100 sick and malnourished animals were rescued from an animal rescue/petting zoo owner who clearly got in over her head. (We’ll talk more about the success at Animal Control next week.)
And when Rob issued the call, which was subsequently echoed by local animal lovers like Laura Van Der Snick (I love Laura), more than 60 eager volunteers managed to move all those critters to a safe haven from two separate locations. Then they worked really hard to see that most of them were adopted.
I wanted to take one in myself, but my wife said that one old goat in the house was more than enough.
But as thrilled as I am with their efforts, this morning I found myself thinking, “why don’t we do this kind of thing for our fellow man?
Oh! On occasion, especially if it involves children, we’ll send some charity a check or maybe even volunteer for a few hours. But more often that not, whenever we see one of those down and out folks with a cardboard sign near Randall Road, we simply lock our doors and avoid eye contact. Then we concoct some sort of conscience absolving mental excuse like they’d spend anything on booze and perhaps their plight is the result of some karmic debt.
That dynamic has gotten so bad, the Republican right has created a cottage industry out of cultivating rage by blaming the poor for their lot. Silly me! I thought Jesus said “feed the poor” not excoriate them.
But the truly difficult truth is, the vast majority of us are one minor misfortune away from having to rely on the kindness of strangers. And all I have to do is look out my front window to be reminded of that terrifying reality.
For one family it was a medical issue that cost the father his job. Thankfully, they were insured, but what do you do when the lasting effects of a malady make it impossible to work? This gentleman hasn’t been a freeloader a day in his life, but now he faces the prospect of having to completely redefine his existence.
Another family was hit by a sudden and destructive divorce which lead to a foreclosure. And while you may be able to point a finger in many marital splits, you can’t blame the children who’ve gone from having a reasonable life to making some serious financial adjustments.
Our third family had to face an unexpected death which lead to a divorce. And despite their best efforts to recover from a real tragedy, the toll was too much. I shudder to think of the amount of debt they’ve had to deal with.
And God bless the father. When I lamented their leaving, he joked that when you consider the divorce rate in the entire neighborhood, we weren’t doing too bad.
I try to tell my sons that living in the shadow of the Sword of Damocles is no way to live, but I also remind them that there are times when things can change in the blink of an eye. And perhaps it’s our fear of that very possibility that makes us wince whenever we encounter that sad someone who could just as well be us.
Maybe that’s why we’re so eager to help animals because they have no control over their plight. But you want to know the truth? Sometimes we don’t either.
So the next time I see one of those homeless folks drifting around Randall Road, regardless of what they might do with it, I’ll just give them five bucks.
Like Pope Francis said, who am I to judge?