Guess What? Independents and Conservatives Do Care.

This week, a couple of odd things happened as I was going about my regular business. I pay attention to occurrences like these, because I assume there must be something I’m meant to learn or pay special attention to.

For example, when I’m totally annoyed and short of patience while driving, I take that as a message that my best bet is to get off the road, go home, and chill. Or, when I find myself in constant conflict with various individuals,that may be a sign that I might well be the source of conflict and I may need to re-evaluate what’s going on with my relationships.

Last weekend, as I got out of my car to head into Jazzercise, I was approached by a young woman.

“Hi!” she said. “Oh my gosh, I just ran out of gas. I don’t have my debit card. I’m a Western student and I’m on my way to work. I’m going to be late. The gas station won’t give me any gas until I have a $10 deposit. Can you help me?”

Well, I’m nobody’s fool. The old “ran out of gas” trick, eh? I paused for a moment.

But, something seemed different about this girl. She was dressed just like I might be on any given day, and she wore a bright  and earnest expression upon her face.

“Where do you work?” I asked.

“Cruisin’ Coffee,” she said with a smile.

“Hmm.” I said. I looked into my wallet. “I don’t have $10, but I have $3.” I handed her three one-dollar bills.

“Thank you!” she said. “I never carry cash!”

“Me either,” I said. “Just happened to have a little.”

She hustled back across the parking lot, and I entered the Jazzercise studio.

Yesterday morning, I met up with my sister on the sidewalk. She was leaving Jazzercise just as I was entering.

I heard someone approach behind me.

“Hi!” a female voice called out. “I just ran out of gas! I’m a Western student. I’m on my way to work. Can you help me?”

Seriously.

I looked at her.

“I just gave you some money a few days ago,” I said.

“Oh!” she said.

I looked at my sister.

“Wow,” I said.

This morning, I placed Valerie in her stroller and began walking across the same parking lot. A man crossed in front of me. He was determined upon his path and did not say anything, but I spent a moment observing him as he passed.

Although it was a cold and rainy morning, he wore shorts. Gold shorts. Tight gold shorts, adorned with sparkles and glitter. I noticed his bare legs, and then I saw the boots he wore. Black rubber boots, decorated in rainbow-colored hearts.

My first thought was that he must be cold in that outfit on such a rainy and dreary day. My second thought was, why is he wearing that outfit? What is his story?

Suddenly, I thought about his parents. Whose son is he? Where is his family? Where did he come from?

I thought back to the girl who’d asked me for money twice in a row. What was her story? Where was her family? Why was she asking for money? What went wrong?

What’s really going on?

I don’t know. I wish I did.

George and I don’t normally give money to folks on the street, because we give generously to organizations that help people on the street. In addition, we sponsor a family in town, and we also sponsor two children in Haiti. We give.

I don’t know if the girl asking for money was an addict, or if she was put up to her con by someone bigger and more threatening than her.

I don’t know if the man scurrying across the parking lot, wearing gold shorts and rainbow boots, was cast out of his home and family for being different, or if he was doing just fine.

I don’t know. But I wonder.

And more than that, I care.

In this political season, I read Facebook and Twitter posts every day centered on politics. About 95% of my friends and associates are liberals and/or democrats.  I am an Independent. Even somewhat a right-leaning Independent.

I read each day online about how heartless conservatives are. I scroll through my feeds, reading about the evils of Republicans. How they don’t care. Don’t give. How they judge. And condemn. And blame.

But you know what?

This is not any more true for the right than it is for the left. The hard left can also judge, condemn, assume, blame, and ridicule.

I do care.

I care about the young woman asking me for money, and I care about the young man in shorts hustling across the lot in the rain. I care about this country. I give money here and abroad. So does my husband. I’m tired of being told that because I’m not a liberal, I don’t care. Because I’m not a registered Democrat, I’m heartless.

We work hard and pay a ton of taxes. We donate. We give. We care. We care about our family, and we also care about yours.

There’s a lesson in here somewhere, but I’ve yet to determine exactly what it is.

Comments

  1. Your journey sounds a lot like mine. Early on. Conservative viewpoints, making enough money to help local families and those in other areas. Proudly watching our kids take a Salvation Army “angel” from a tree in a local store so we could “adopt” a kid for Christmas. Paying enough in taxes before we had kids that it made sense to incorporate our business because it was painful writing a check to the IRS that was more than what many people make in a year. Then I put myself through school at Western. A BA in Human Services degree was the result. Not much money in that, for sure. It didn’t matter. I just thought I would be able to give. I thought I would always be able to give. My time. My money. My experience. My education. Then things changed. Unprecedented fishing closures in our fishery in WA, CA, & ORE. I was working as a paraeducator and recommended to the School District that they hire my husband as a mail delivery person. He was hired and the job also entailed washing buses. Pretty humbling for a fishing boat captain who was used to making more in one trip than what school bus washers make in a year. It carried benefits, the job. Teamster benefits. A couple years later our daughter got very ill. It required 9 months of hospitalization and I could not work. People, liberals to a fault, helped us out financially. Mostly school employees. They gave my husband their personal sick time so he could spend more time with our family. We ran out of money and accrued debt. Not just a mortgage or a boat payment (the boat had been paid off years earlier) but scary credit card debt. Then things changed again. Everyone in our family is well now. The fisheries have stabilized more on the West Coast, at least in what we do, and we have time to pursue work in the off-season. It is still a struggle. Trying to get out of a financial hole. It is painful to acknowledge, that no matter how successful we were at saving money and at fishing, we would have been entirely wiped out without those school emplyoyee & teamster benefits. Almost every penny of our child’s medical care was paid for out of those benefits. To keep that in perspective, one night at Children’s Hospital in Seattle is close to $4,000. I know. We were there. For 3 months. And that was just the start of our journey with a sick kid. I am not sure what our story would have been without the liberals stepping in. Or the conservatives. In the end, it took a village. In the end, that is all that really matters. Peace.

  2. Karla, your comment brought tears to my eyes. So beautiful, and thank you for sharing and illustrating the point so powerfully that it does take a village. I absolutely agree. I so appreciate my liberal and my conservative friends and community members, many of whom bring gifts, compassion, and care to so many.

    Gypsy, I know. I don’t like the vitriol.

    As I tell my children, like we all tell our children, “saying something mean or putting someone else down will not make you feel better about yourself.”

    I so wish more would adhere to this simple preschool philosophy.

    Respect. Compassion. Kindness.

    Stop the vitriol, the anger, the put-downs, the venom.

  3. I was approached be a woman a couple weeks ago in front of the Walgreen’s on Sunset. Same story, seemed sincere. I gave her $3 too. It’s hard because you WANT to trust people, and now, again I feel like I can’t. And next time someone asks me they might REALLY be out of gas, might REALLY need money. Sigh….

    Very good read.

    • Thank you for writing! You know, my husband read this post last night and then came in to tell me he ran into the same gal on the Southside. He found .75 cents to give her! And he never gives in this manner. She is good! Honestly makes me wonder what success she might find in a more traditional job, perhaps in sales or marketing.

  4. I have run into the same girl 3 times at Joannes fabrics, Lowes and Walgrens. Same story except she was a student at Whatcom. I did not give her a dime. I called her out 2 times and she told me to F off! I called the police and they know about her. She is a hardcore addict.

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