Tuesday, January 21, 2014

keep seeing

To my left, out the window, a man with crumpled legs lies on the sidewalk in the sun. I see him.

His hair is matted and tinted a peculiar orange. His clothes stained so badly their original color is unknowable.

Flies land freely on his face, his hands.

His life is this.

Sitting against a wall, watching men and women and children go by; he watches life happen from his prison. Trapped in a body that doesn't cooperate and a mind that won't allow him to communicate at all, he sits.

He is a reminder that many things lie outside of our solutions, outside of our abilities, outside of all our talk. I have no answers. I have no ability to fix it, there is no "justice" for him.

I see him.
I cannot fix it.

~          ~          ~

To my right, an older man pushing a wheelbarrow as I walk past him.  I've come to know him a little bit.

Well, that is a stretch.

I've come to know his name.

I see him. I greet him, "Bonjour Marcel".  "He keeps his eyes forward and replies, "Bonjour Madame".

Marcel is what many folks might describe as 'slow'.  He keeps his head down and quietly, daily, always faithfully, does his work.

His job is coming to pick up trash from middle class families. Marcel walks the trash about two miles away where he can dump it.  He does this by hand, on foot, just he and his trusty wheelbarrow.  Over and over again. Day after day after day.

People call him "Mesye fatra" - or - Mr. Trash. That is why I have decided it is important we know his real name.

His life is this.

Taking people's garbage away in his wheelbarrow. Walking miles in heat, mud, dust, and traffic. Coming home to eat a little, sleep a few hours, then wake up and do it again tomorrow.

Marcel can move. Marcel can work.  He may be suffering from an incomplete development of his mind, but Marcel is making a small wage. His grueling work hasn't meant a climb up a corporate ladder to success, but it has meant a meal most days and a place to lie his head at night.

Marcel is a reminder that life is not fair, and poverty steals much. I have no better ideas for Marcel. He's not headed to a promotion or an earthly reward for his diligence.

I see him. 
I cannot fix it.

~          ~           ~

In front of me at the Maternity Center is a pregnant woman.  She is nervous and shy.

The other midwives and nurses tell me she is really doing well. I should have seen her when she first arrived on the doorstep, they say.

Her story has been shared with me in fragmented pieces by my co-workers. Abuse. Poverty. Servitude. She is pregnant but has been so used that she cannot say which man might be the father. It matters not. She is not interested in knowing him anyway.

She seems mainly accepting that this little life within her womb is heading full-speed-ahead toward delivery day, toward life outside the walls. She has begun to trust a few people, although I know I'm not among them yet.

She will deliver later this spring, during a time of year that signifies birth, new life, and resurrection.

For her, there are a few things we can do.  We can show up weekly and at her delivery. We can support and encourage in those difficult early weeks and months.  We can believe in the metaphorical significance of her spring time birth. We can choose love. We can be love. 

We see her. 
We cannot fix everything, but we can fix some things.

~          ~          ~

In my room, lying on my bed, my son is crying.  

"What is wrong, son? Why are you so very sad?" 

He pours out his sorrow in words and in tears.  I listen.  I empathize. I listen some more.

He wants to be comforted and I have been given all the gifts necessary to provide him with the perfect words of assurance and comfort.  

I see my son. 
I cannot fix everything, but I can fix some things. 

~           ~          ~

This is life.  Seeing sorrow. Seeing want.  Doing what we can.  Seeing sorrow. Seeing need. Refusing to stop seeing it, even when our lack of ability to fix it frustrates us.