Over the weekend my husband and I made a quick trip to San Francisco, a getaway marred somewhat by the fact I was on the verge of illness and succumbed the very last day.
But only somewhat. As it happens, I can still have a pretty good time even with a fever and raging sore throat.
What did we do while on vacation? I'll sum it up in three words: walked and talked.
I'm not kidding. That's pretty much what we did. We did a few other things, as well, but the walking and talking was the main attraction. It was a treat to have Roger to myself, to have no greater agenda than to spend time together, doing as we pleased.
In stark contrast to this indulgence, however, was the condition of the homeless, who are as much a part of that city as steep hills, cable cars, and pretty houses painted with gingerbread trim.
At every turn it seemed we were met by the effects of poverty, distress, and mental illness upon those who possess a soul no different than my own. These disparities trouble me deeply, they have always troubled me, and I suppose I will go to my grave worried about the conditions of this world, that such suffering exists, and whether I've done enough to relieve it.
As we were riding the bus one day, a man hopped on and struck up a conversation with himself. It was rather disjointed, but at a certain point he seemed to reflect upon a memory of stealing a flag. He acted out the scenario, supplying lines both for himself and the owners of the property. When they caught him in the act, with the flag wrapped around his body, he made an offer to give it back. But they refused, as everything he touched became, in his words, "degraded." I listened to him ramble on about how even a flag was better protection than sleeping on the bare ground, how he'd missed his stop several stops back, how he could return to the area tomorrow, how he wished he had something to drink.
I don't know what I'm trying to say here. I'm not trying to make lofty statements or endow myself with virtues I don't possess. I didn't do anything to help this man. He was one of a numberless concourse I saw that weekend who appeared inured to misery, their eyes dimmed and features hardened, well beyond my capacity to save.
A phrase from a favorite address in the last general conference of the LDS church keeps coming to mind: when we offer succor to anyone, the Savior feels it as if we reached out to succor Him.
The talk focuses on the law of fasting, a practice I've grown to love over the years, in part because it's intended to alleviate the hunger and hardship of others. I have great faith in this, dear reader. I also believe in doing every other possible thing to help, but in situations where what I can offer is eclipsed by a chasm of need, I rely on the conviction my small gesture of sacrifice will somehow be consecrated to those who suffer in deeper, immeasurable ways.
Such sobering thoughts. I think you can see, once again, why I was never asked to prom. But to be honest, I never really cared about the prom, nor anything like it.
Rather, this is what weighs on my mind as I sit in my house, so far removed from those people on the street. How I wish things were different! How I wish all children were born into loving circumstances and people everywhere would live in ways to eradicate such misery.
It makes me more determined to do what I can, trusting each small act of goodness makes a difference and is felt through the universe.
Somehow, this must be true.