'Cause love's such an old-fashioned word
And love dares you to care for the people on the edge of the night
And love dares you to change our way of caring about ourselves
This is our last chance
This is our last dance
This is ourselves ...
~ Queen and David Bowie, "Under Pressure"
Gasoline is 12 to 18 cents a gallon cheaper in Missouri than in Illinois, but I'd rather buy it in Illinois because of the panhandlers in downtown St. Louis. I hear "Yoo hoo! Sweetheart!" and I know it's the tranny who describes himself as a "black Barbie doll." He's of the narrative variety of beggar, always offering a complicated story of what he needs money for. He's also benign, but insistent. I prefer to avoid these confrontations.
And yet, one drizzly November day I was exiting the highway into an unfamiliar neighborhood when an old woman with a shopping cart and cardboard sign caught my attention. I don't know what that sign said. I know I had found a $5 bill on the seat of my car that day and felt surprised and lucky. I gave it to the woman while I waited for my traffic light to change. "God bless you," she said. "I've been here all morning in the rain, and ain't nobody stopping." Suddenly I looked at her as a human being. "Do you need an umbrella?" I asked. She brightened. "You got one?" Well, no - but I went up to the nearest Family Dollar store and bought one for her. By the time I got back, there was another panhandler sharing her corner, but I insisted I wanted THAT LADY - and I gave her the umbrella with a $10 bill wrapped around the handle.
The next time I drove past that corner, I was pleased and proud to see a purple umbrella bobbing above the guard rails.
So I felt really good and proud of myself for having helped someone - someone I would ordinarily shun. It made me think a lot about charity and "slacktivism" - the ease of clicking a Like or a Donate button without getting personally involved. It didn't really cost me much to help that lady with a few bucks and an umbrella, but somehow I think this makes me a Good Person.
And I continue to avoid the South Broadway gas stations.
Shortly after I posted about Cassie and the personalization of addiction, this appeared on HuffPo. My guilt was on display. "Mankind was my business!" rails Jacob Marley. I don't want to be inconvenienced by mankind - or trannykind - of any kind. I don't want to be reminded that these are people with histories and feelings, contributors to the sum of all life. I don't want to think about them as individuals. I don't want to think about Cassie.
The latest update on Cassie is: She is out of the hospital and living under martial law with her father and grandmother. She is eating, has gained 10 lbs., and is trying to kick tobacco. Her grandmother asked recently if Cassie was wearing her patch, because she seemed kind of bitchy. Cassie snapped at her, "YES! But just to please you, I'll put on ANOTHER ONE!" She slapped a patch on her other shoulder and stormed out. When Grandma reported to Dad, aghast, "And she's wearing TWO patches," Cassie snarled, "And if you don't like it, I'll take it off and LICK it." I fear this isn't coming across right. It was relayed to me as a comedy, because these confrontations are typical Cassie - with or without drugs, at two or 12 or 32 - lashing out, mouthing off, determined to do it her way. I do love her.
I wonder if I would recognize her on the street.
On the turning away
From the pale and downtrodden
And the words they say which we won't understand
Don't accept that what's happening
Is just a case of others' suffering
Or you'll find that you're joining in
The turning away
~ Pink Floyd, "On the Turning Away"