One can want the best for another person, but
only that person can define what “the best” means.
On the walk from the shelter to church Wednesday morning, I was in great turmoil. I may or may not manage to recall all the questions now. Pastor is focused on the need to change systems (people’s circumstances) in order to alleviate poverty, and seems unwilling or unable to consider how people act; my orientation is the exact opposite, wanting people to change their ways in order to alleviate poverty. Pastor says he doesn’t like it when I talk about squalor; but doesn’t squalor need to be talked about, given that it’s why “haves” won’t invest where the “have-nots” live?
I am torn between the way I want to live, and the way I have to live in the situation I’m in.
I have focused so much, so long, on the dynamics that create poverty, that I’m stuck in it; to get out, I need to focus instead solely on the dynamics that create wealth. To do that, it would be easiest to simply turn my back on the poor. But am I willing to do that?
I am torn between wanting to love the “needy” people around me as they are, and wanting them to change their ways so as to establish order in their lives, leave the world of chaos, and find better lives for themselves. However, it’s become more and more clear to me in recent weeks that the specific changes I have in mind, won’t occur. Clyde Williams won’t change.
Finally, upward mobility, for me, is likely to mean continued discomfort: if I get the job I want at the Save-A-Lot, I am destined for total immersion in exactly that population I want to get away from. The same would also have been true at either of the CVSs that were interested in me. For the indeterminate future, for me, working among those whom mainstream folk would regard as “nice people,” just isn’t in the cards.
I arrived at church and prepared for my usual nap. I had misgivings about taking a nap at all, and it wound up lasting 50 minutes, but in the end it proved to have been worth it.
I went into it recalling that, for me, peace of mind must be paramount; but I had no clue how to find it. I need to walk my own path, and peace of mind can be there; but is it OK for others, for example the “haves,” so to walk their paths, and presume to know peace of mind, without ever having to leave one’s comfort zone?
I don’t recall the thought processes by which I reached resolution; but they may have been these.
Several years ago, at a meeting of the Church Council (vestry), Pastor reported to us on the work of the social worker we had on staff at the time. He shared that on the intake form that any new client is asked to fill out, at the end she or he is asked to list two goals he or she would like to accomplish. I nearly fell out of my chair. Whether or not I said this out loud is not clear now, but my thought was, “Have you any idea how much courage it takes to have a goal?”
One Sunday afternoon in January, a woman admonished me at length that I was not doing enough to improve my own situation. To the end of having a place of my own, she said, I needed first to take any job I can get; and if it’s a part-time job or otherwise unable to support my having a place of my own, get a second part-time job on top of that. She did not have any particular solution to the issue of where I would stay at night if either job were inconsistent with my ability to stay at the shelter.
I don’t mean to demean or degrade her efforts, but in fact a lot of this was just wasted talk. In the actual situation I was in at the time, having a place of my own was far, far beyond anything I could want or dream of. The only thing, the only thing, I was capable of wanting, at that time, was to have a roof over my head that night. Any roof. Not a roof over my head every night, but a roof over my head that night. Tomorrow night? I would not be able to think about that till tomorrow.
I have a long history with this individual, that ever since I became homeless, she’s had goals for my life that have never been the same as my own.
Related: Treatment resistant
Everyone has a place to begin, namely, where one’s at. I can only begin here. She’s not where I’m at; she doesn’t walk in my shoes; she doesn’t see the same landscape I see. My obstacles and opportunities don’t appear to her the same way they appear to me. What a better life really means for me, is invisible to her.
As it happens, at this writing, in recent weeks I had a realistic job prospect. It became realistic for me to dream again of putting offering in the offering plate, of paying taxes. It’s surprising how elated I become in thinking of these things. The dream of having my own place, however, remains out of reach. My dreams can’t reach that far.
What about those men I look down on, who I feel are below me, whom I don’t want to be around, who I wish would change their ways? What about Clyde Williams?
I’m not where they’re at — nor do I want to be. I don’t walk in their shoes — nor do I want to. I don’t see their circumstances the same way they do. How far their dreams reach — what a better life means to them — is, in all likelihood, invisible to me.
I can love them as they are, unconditionally, without any expectation of change.
With love, they can desire — There is no desire without love. — better lives for themselves, whatever that may mean. And with adequate desire, there can be work, and movement, and attainment.
With love, I, too, can desire better for myself; and work, and move, and attain.