Of love and anger
“There are plenty of good reasons for fighting but no good reason ever to hate without reservation, to imagine that god Almighty himself hates with you too.”
-- Kurt Vonnegut
I am speaking today of love (and anger). The love called, “Agape,” a Latin word that means not love of self or family but love of humanity. A value not heavily utilized these days. I’ve been called an ignorant fool, an old fool, misguided and on and on and on. A young whipper–snapper Facebook-ed me today that people are living in misery because they are not putting themselves first.
Of course she has no children, but then again there are many who have children who don’t really care about them either. The “me” generation. The generation who got to mega churches to learn how to be “fabulous.” Making money has become synonymous with a life well lived. When I respond with “religion is more than going to church and praying regularly,” they look at me with a smile full of pity and more or less pat me on the head. When I say hopefully that, “perhaps you might pay some attention to the words of someone who is a lot older and a little wiser,” they give me the “look.”
“Judy,” they say, “Just because you are older does not make you wiser!” And that is a direct quote. Agape is a word that says it’s perfectly -- love that is universal. The word that comes the closest to that of a supreme being. Listen to me, I have stopped going to church years ago, and practice no organized religion. And here I stand in my bully pulpit preaching. Unless you die young, everyone grows old, and hopefully gains some knowledge along the journey.
I am still so humbled, nevertheless, by the lives of so many of my QUESTors, one in particular, or rather 2, or maybe 3 or probably even more than that stand out. The young man in the wheelchair with Spinal Bifida who used to live on Stanley Street, we used to have to carry his wheelchair downstairs so he would have full access to our programs. He grew up and has become a lawyer. Criminal law and totally self-sufficient. Makes you kind of want to weep, doesn’t it?
Mi Mah struggling through school. Working as a hotel maid, helping everyone who comes by to get a second chance at life. The young woman, who as a girl told Chrissie Ann, “Of course you can dance, I will teach you, I will teach you the salsa!” To this day Chrissie remembers both the salsa and the support.
I can go on and on, but they keep coming, a long, long line of people, “Hey Judy!” they say, “Just stopped by, just got out of jail, just had a baby, just got a job, just finished school, just finished rehab, just wanted to see you, just needed a hug, just want to help, just need to talk, just want to see you. Gosh I’m glad you’re here.” How can I quit? How can I simply walk away? And I am reminded of this:
“Paradise is at your own center
unless you find it there
There is no way to enter.”
-- Angelus Silesius
And so it goes, but I got frightened, I stay up at night and worry about money. We are slowly losing ground. One of our long-time funders, through no fault of her own, has entrusted her work as a philanthropist to someone inexperienced and we find monies that we need desperately to be very, very late in arriving. I feel sometimes as if I am holding up a house of cards, one card, only one, out of place, and everything topples, and the house becomes just a deck of cards.
We are planning a reunion of sorts, both successes and those still slowly climbing the stairs, to meet at QUEST and have a pot luck and lots of tears of remembrance and joy. And possibly even a little salsa. Maybe now is the time to try some new ideas, different paths because as Miguel De Unamung says, “To fall into habit is to cease to be.”
So here’s my plan. Folks have been telling me that the city won’t help change our part of the town because no one here votes. That money and time is being given elsewhere because people vote and organize and show up at city council meetings and push and push and do not give up. And there is a nugget of truth in that contention.
We do, however, get more than our fair share of police officers. I am making that observation, LOL, so here is my proposition, less standing around with our hands in our pockets and let’s use our muscle. We have that power and let's flex our muscles a wee bit. If we want what Steinmetz Park is getting, a real makeover, we have to earn it. The Steinmetz folk pushed and shoved for 5 years or more to have this happen.
And I give you due warning that we will also have to allow due process. But — and this is big but, we have many more citizens who can gain through our momentum. We must move as a community and push the vote -- then push the response; inaction never got anything for anyone. We could really do this right, design a flag for combined neighborhoods, make posters, have pot- lucks etc.
I am offering use of QUEST space to come together. We are centrally located, we have parking, we have a bus stop and a kitchen, and a meeting room. C’mon down, our phone number is posted on the QUEST sign right in front on the building. 826 State St.
"To say yes, you have to sweat and roll up your sleeves, and plunge both hands into life up to the elbows. It is easy to say no even if saying no means death."
-- Jean Anouilh
“For those who say we can’t do it, we’re too lazy, too stoned, don’t care, can’t work together, I add, never turn your back on reality. It surrounds you.”
-- Stanis Law J. Lec
Talk isn't cheap
Speaking of entitlements, these are the oppressive entitlements I see and it is not Social Security, Medicare and Food Stamps. It is cell phones. Designer cell phones for kids, adults, even for homeless people. And it is the most expensive way to own and use them. It’s to buy and use with a SIM card.
Explain to me why you would purchase a phone outright and then pay for minutes. Boost phones advertise on every store and bodega a phone plan which is reasonable and inexpensive and offers unlimited -- let me repeat -- unlimited talk and text, for about $30 a month. Does anyone really need the games and hoopla? Especially the 12-year-olds.
I have kids who literally, and I’m not exaggerating, are never ever a heartbeat away from their phone. If you speak to them they are concentrating so completely on texting they simply don’t register that there is a real live person speaking to them. The phone is never unplugged from their ear unless it’s plugged into a charger.
Now this is a true story: One young girl came out to the car with a phone on her shoulder talking away while her hands were constantly texting on a second device. Electronic multi-tasking. There is something truly frightening about this. And when I try to speak to them about this, they are totally bewildered, they feel that I don’t get it, that I don’t understand.
And going right along with this is the taxi cab business. I bet if an accurate study was made we would find that the majority of users of cabs are coming from the poorer sections of town. Kids use cabs to go to Rollarama, to go to the mall, either Rotterdam or Colonie Center. Definitely to go to the movies and sometimes even to go to school. One mother I know sent her daughter to school for an entire semester by cab. Daughter kept getting in fights on the bus so to fix the problem child went by cab. You can figure out yourself that the minimum amount needed was $10 a day. $50 a week and on and up. No surprise there was no car in the family. But for $200 a month you can surely buy one. There’s even a ghetto garage which rents for $100 a week -- nice shiny new cars, if you don’t pay the car stops, whereever and whenever. You would be surprised how many fools hook into that one. And a favorite idea for a big day present, birthday or otherwise, is a surprise car rented just for YOU, for three or four days. No background checks or even driving license checks here.
Cars and phones, status symbols feuded by the drug trade. C’mon over and impress the world you live in.
On the other hand, it’s Kay Shawn’s 12th birthday and his mom is taking him and a few friends to the mall to hang out and guess what? These 12-year-old boys are begging me to come along. They are even using that magic word, “PLEASE!”
“Beyond the spectrum of darkness she saw the bright stars scattered across the table of the night sky and felt as if she had never seen such things as stars before. She did not know enough numbers to count them and even if she did the stars could not be separated one from the other, the whole was so much greater than the sum of its parts. She saw the textbooks of constellations, the heroes of mythology posing on fields of ink. She could see the milkiness in everything now, the way the sky was spread over with light.”
-- Ann Patchett
“I’ve always taken ‘The Wizard of Oz’ very seriously, you know I believe in the idea of the rainbow. And, I’ve spent my entire life trying to get over it.”
-- Judy Garland