Baggy Clothes, A Shopping Cart, A Pink Blanket

Photo by Matt Collamer on Unsplash

This morning I was driving near our last home in Denver when I had the opportunity to watch a homeless man, probably in his late 50s or early 60s, pushing a shopping cart half full with whatever worldly possessions he has now. He was moving quite slowly in clothes that were far too baggy for his frame. He had a light pink blanket hanging loosely over his shoulders for warmth. I passed him as I was on my way to drop off something at my sister’s house. On my way back towards the highway, I caught sight of him again down the road. I found myself wondering about him. Wondering how he got to be where he was. Wondering if he had family somewhere who had lost track of him. Wondering where he was heading and where he would sleep tonight. Wondering how long he had been a lost member of our society.

As I pulled onto the highway headed home, I thought about my current first world problems. I needed to purchase some duvet covers for new down duvets we recently bought. I needed to research puppy training for our new furry friend. I needed to figure out dinners for this week. Not one of these concerns of mine are anything other than intellectual. We can afford to take care of all three of the chores that were occupying my mind before I spied that man. My “worries” aren’t really worries at all, at least not in the same sense as a homeless individual. I have shelter, food, water, health care, warm clothing, and companionship. I’m rich in more ways than money.

There is a large homeless population in Denver. It’s unusual for me to go a day without seeing a person who is living without proper shelter and food. I often see homeless encampments or homeless individuals standing with signs on street corners or highway on/off ramps. I don’t have any idea how to help these disenfranchised, visibly invisible Americans. I donate clothes to homeless shelters. I hand out cash when I run across a person with a sign, hoping my assistance will provide some measure of comfort for them. I volunteer at organizations that seek to lessen the suffering of those who are without food and shelter security. But, at the end of the day, my efforts are barely a rain drop in a flood. All I keep thinking is how sad it is that, as the wealthy nation we are, we don’t do better for the people among us who struggle. We make no allowances for the unfortunate events in life that can leave a person without basic necessities. We can’t be bothered to care.

Call me whatever you want. Call me a bleeding heart. Call me a raging socialist. Call me a hypocrite in my lovely suburban home. Perhaps I am all those things. I don’t care. At the end of the day, I can’t help but feel we can do better, show more compassion, use some of our country’s wealth for the good of our people. If feeling this way makes me too sensitive and weak, a “snowflake” if you prefer, I’ll own it because I can’t understand why we won’t do better. And if you find yourself at church every Sunday and you still believe that those who suffer from homelessness or poverty simply need to do better for themselves, then it seems to me church is not helping you and you’ve not learned much from your holy texts. Look inside yourself and try to find your compassion, and then ask yourself why it is okay to malign those who struggle. Ask yourself how you would feel if your father, mother, brother, sister, child, or even you were in the same situation as the man I saw with the pink blanket today. Homelessness is not a Democrat or Republican issue. It’s a human issue.

“It’s all right to tell a man to lift himself by his own bootstraps, but it is cruel jest to say to a bootless man that he ought to lift himself by his own bootstraps.” ~Martin Luther King Jr.

We can do better. We should do better. Anything less makes the United States far less great than we believe we are. It’s not the homeless who need to do more to change things for the better. It’s those of us with boots.

One Thing Leads To Another

The solution that became the problem

Today I want to share with you a cautionary tale, an example of how a small first-world problem can morph and change into another small first-world problem and another after that on into infinity. If you’re not careful, a tiny first-world problem just might cost you your sanity. My mother always said that you can tell the size of a person by the size of the things that bother them. If that’s the case, I’m smaller than I want to admit. (And, I’m not talking about the quarter of an inch I afford myself when I tell people I’m actually 5’5″.)

First World Problem #1: A year ago September I got a new car. Well, it was a new car to me. It was actually my father-in-law’s car, which he had decided to replace with a newer version of the same thing. My new car was two years old when I got it, but it had one flaw. It smelled like my father-in-law. Now, this is not to say that my father-in-law is a stinky man. He’s not. In fact, I’m sure his hygiene is impeccable. After all, this is a man who safety pins his socks together so he never loses one to the black hole that materializes when you close the door to the clothes dryer. The car simply smelled like leather and my father-in-law’s cologne. No offense to my father-in-law, who is the kindest, most generous man I know (aside from his son), but I didn’t want to spend my days in a car that smelled like him. I merely wanted my car to feel like my car and I couldn’t feel like that when every time I opened my car door the aroma from within reminded me of Jim.

So, I went in the house, grabbed a scented car disc from the Scentsy company, attached it to my rear view mirror, and waited for the day when I felt like the car was mine. Sure enough, one day, I noticed that Jim had been replaced by a pleasant, cinnamon scent. The car was mine, and I kept it mine by replacing that disc every three months.

First World Problem #2: A week ago, I noticed that my car no longer had that pleasant, Welcome Home, cinnamon smell. So, when I got home I marched into the house to grab a new disc. It was then that I realized that I was out of my favorite scent. I had two choices on-hand for a replacement...Sunkissed Citrus and Coconut Lemongrass. After weighing my options carefully, I went with the second scent, installed it in my car, and forgot about it. Long about the time I needed to pick the boys up from school, the car was well-saturated with the smell of coconut and lemongrass. My car smelled like Thai curry. It was a distinct change from the cinnamon, but I’m working on dealing with change with more grace so I inhaled deeply and carried on. By the time I got back from chauffeur duty, however, I noticed that I was quite stuffy. I am a person who is sensitive to smells, and apparently the new scent was not agreeing with my nose. It’s no good to have a car air freshener that makes you ill. It had to go. Hubby removed the offender, I took some Sudafed, and I waited for the scent to fade.

First World Problem #3: It’s now a week later and the coconut-lemongrass smell in my car has lightly faded but is still pervasive. For some reason, it won’t skedaddle. So now, every time I get in my car, I smell Thai curry. Thai curry (especially green curry with tofu) is one of my all-time favorite meals, and my car smells exactly like that. It’s disturbing. For starters, no one wants to smell green curry at 7:45 a.m. before coffee. But later, when I get in my car in the afternoon just at the time I’m trying to avoid late afternoon snacking, my stomach starts growling at what seems to be the lingering scent of take out Thai curry. Then today, not unlike the reaction of Pavlov’s dog to the introduced stimulus, my mouth watered when I got into my vehicle. This is not a good development.

First World Problem #4: This afternoon I mentioned to hubby in a text that every time I enter my car now I want Thai food. His response? Ooh…Thai food. Apparently now hubby wants it too. Any guesses what we’ll be eating for dinner tomorrow night? I’m hoping that the combination of satisfying my Thai food craving and installing a new scented disc in my car will turn things around for me in this first-world problem situation. That way I can go back to being annoyed that the new LTE network in Denver isn’t quite consistent enough for me and my first-world-awesome iPhone 5.

Apple Isn’t A Cult…It Just Seems That Way Until You Drink The Kool-Aid

Bonding with my iPhone in the Galapagos

A couple days ago, Steve told me we could pre-order the iPhone 5 starting tomorrow. I rolled my eyes at him. It’s not that I wouldn’t appreciate a new phone. After all, I missed out on the 4s altogether, so I’ve never had the chance to torture Siri with questions about the best places to bury a body, which I guess is okay because I don’t actually need that information just yet. But, I don’t want to hear about the latest, greatest new gadget that I can’t get my hands on. That’s just cruel and unusual punishment. I told him that we could wait until it was available in stores to get it. No need to pre-order. End of story.

Then tonight, two nights after Steve’s original announcement about the phone, curiosity got the best of me and I made a very real, first-world mistake. I watched Apple’s introduction to the new iPhone 5. Five minutes into the video presentation, I paused it. I walked downstairs to look for Steve. He wasn’t there. I walked outside to look for Steve. I couldn’t find him. I walked out onto the open space behind our house, and there I found him taking his photo of the day.

“I walked all the way downstairs, all the way out here to find you for one reason. I need an iPhone 5. Yesterday,” came my announcement.

“Why are you saying this?” he asked, remembering my disinterest a couple days ago.

“I watched a product video. The only thing Apple is better at than making products I need is showing me why I need them immediately,” I replied. “If I was in Guyana with Apple and they asked me to drink some kool-aid, I totally would. Just saying. We need to order it tonight,” I told him.

“You’re awesome,” was all he said, a sure sign that he was pleased to have turned his wife into the Apple cult follower he is.

And, cult follower I am. My iPhone is rarely more than 5 feet away from me at any given moment. I don’t always answer it because like many iPhone users I use it less as a phone and more as a personal assistant. But, I always have it. If someone asked me to choose between Joe and Luke and my iPhone, I might pause for a minute to weigh my options. (I’d pick my sons, of course, but not without careful consideration.) Say what you will about Apple, but they continually innovate products that make my life better, easier, more fun, and more connected. I know there are those who are not Apple fans. They say their products are too simply designed, too basic, too easy to use. I get it. Some people like complicated. I used to think I did too. Then, I drank the kool-aid. Now it’s all sunshine, rainbows, and unicorns.