Monday, April 28, 2008

If a tree falls in a forest...


Apparently the second half of this question now reads, "who is to blame." Or, maybe not...


A wise person once said..."When one person fails, it is the failure of all. When one person succeeds, it is the success of all. A bit of an explanation to the propositions: We cannot lay claim to only one or the other. Both, are a package. We as a society create the people who are a part of our society. We as a society are responsible for our creations, whether they are angels or monsters".


As a child when my grandmother would scold and school me on the starving poor, my small serving of Lima beans seemed an inconsequential contribution and she a histrionic fascist "Ma, if you're reading un-purse your lips and continue on before you start, okay?" Along the same time, comments like, "Learn to put your toys away and tend to your belongings, be grateful for all that you have..." seemed equally trivial. Vegetables and toys...well, everyone has those right?


As an adolescent I heard, "Money doesn't grow on trees, you can't have everything you see on the commercials, you know". "You have nothing to wear? You have a closet full of clothes!" Has this woman gone completely mad, I haven't gone to the mall in like a month! Enter the girl from the next building; her mom died a few years ago of cancer, her father has a wandering eye and a gambling problem, her oldest sister and guardian is a cocaine addict with a heroin addicted husband and a constantly crying child. They are on welfare, and boy do they need it. There are no curtains, no carpets, no pictures on the wall. The baby's eyes, nose and lips have a pinkish tint and are raw from constant discharge. There is a stench of cockroach feces emitting from loose cracks of lead-based paint on the walls where they have taken shelter to breed. Kinda gives me a hankering for a big ol' pot of Lima beans, and maybe there is nothing wrong with last season's styles after all.


A few weeks go by, and the new girl is mistakenly placed in my class in the neighboring school. It is an AP or "bridge" class; combining two grades at once, all who complete the course successfully will skip a grade come next fall. The teacher hands out the assignment, the Korean girl sitting next to me; my arch nemesis and I both take out our Sanrio mechanical pencils and feverishly scribble out our answers, power walk to the front of the class and slam our papers down as we usually do. The new girl sits, eyes welling with tears as she approaches the teacher and says, "I never learn'ded this in my ol' schoo". The teacher has her gather her belongings and escorts her from the classroom. The class starts to whisper and speculate about the stupid girl when I exclaim, "She isn't stupid, okay-she's just really poor"! Huh?! I care?!


The girl is transferred to a different program, we remain friends and spend as much time as we can between my dance classes, Latin lessons, spelling bee prep, student government and more. Oh, why was she not involved in any of these things? Well, her family couldn't afford it. There are no grammar school grants, at this point in the game, money talks. A few years pass, we're still friends, I've been diagnosed "school phobic" and now have a host of private home instruction tutors, she has a host of lipstick wearing girlfriends with boyfriends, she becomes pregnant. I offered to pay for an abortion because, I of course have access to credit cards and even have a fake ID which permits me to work at a job that pays me quite well by the hour since they think I'm 18 and a college student versus my actual 14. She declines because her boyfriend loves her and he buys her nice things and has promised to take her out of her still cocaine addicted sister's house. Only now, the sister has 3 children and her dad? Oh, his wandering eye landed him a big win; a gambling gal with great gams-he's out of there!


I met a nice boy; we want the same things, I left home and the old neighborhood, but the girl and I are still friends. A few months after I left she called and asked me if I'd sit for her newborn while she applied for welfare, love is just not enough to pay the bills. I complied. A few months later she called again, and asked if she could stay with us for a while because things were getting volatile at home. I complied. A few short months after that, she phoned and asked if she could live with me she'd been evicted. And, a few months later her welfare funds were discontinued because you must have an address to qualify. Two students living in NYC, we can hardly afford ourselves let alone a single mother and her child, she soon left. This cycle continued for many many years and I learned more about the system and society than I ever wanted to know.


We're both in our thirties now, with two children each. My children are home schooled by me while my husband works more hours than most to support us on a single income. Her children attend a public school in one of the poorest, low performing school districts in NYC where she also works too many hours, but working there enables her to be close to her children-there is no one else. She is the working poor. Evictions on her credit report keep her from qualifying for student loans to further her education, nor can she pass up the overtime with two children and rent to pay. I'd be here forever if I took the time to jot every time we've been there for each other. I say each other because more than any of my grandmother's harangues , "Waste not want not" and more, knowing, loving and listening to the plight of someone less fortunate than I, has shaped me in insurmountable ways.


Life isn't fair, but each of us together can help to balance the scales just a little bit more. Giving your change to a homeless person in front of Starbucks isn't enabling them. Even if everyone that left gave them their odd coins, they'd likely die of exposure before ever having enough money to secure housing. And, even if they could...no, better yet and so what if they do just go and buy drugs with it-you're probably needing that Starbucks to take the edge off your shitty day, so what really is the difference? Oh, the difference is you work? Is that what you said. Okay fair enough, so the money you cost your company each year by taking sick days when you aren't sick, arriving late and/or surfing the web and probably reading my blog or the insanity that prompted it, you are taking money out of some one's pocket, yes? And what is your thought process...just balancing the scales a little right?


See if a tree falls in the forest, who cares whether it makes a sound. At that point, the truth is the foundation was shaky and there were signs long before it finally collapsed. Signs which were ignored. We're all in this together and for every tree that falls it takes a few others down alongside it, it crushes a few land irrigating, bird feeding worms. The lifeless limbs no longer emit the carbon dioxide necessary for the survival of our carbon based bodies. I'm a city girl, NYC to be exact, but the girl from the next building took me to the forest. If you're still pondering whether or not that tree made a sound, you'll never know. Ask yourself this, what do you call a forest with no trees?


It's easy to pick up a fallen tree, toss it, mulch it and forget about it. It isn't so easy to nurse it, sturdy the foundation, or simply level the land and keep it from falling. Taking the easy route are you? Hypocritical much?


The whole is more than the sum of its parts~Aristotle
This is one of my more heartfelt posts. There is much happening in the world today that truly shakes my branches. It's hard to think that one day my roots will dry, my tree will wither and the seeds that I've dropped in the forest will have no chance. It isn't for lack of sowing or weak foundation-but an inherent societal blindness for the forest amongst the trees...





9 comments:

bombalurina said...

Darn you, you made me cry, and I don't do that scene.

And I can't agree more. And I know.

stitchandtell said...

Thank you PIP - someone finally gets it.

Tara said...

very beautifully and articulately spoken.

Less Than Three Designs said...

Oh man. Well written and oh so true.

mydesertstudio said...

Yes. yes. yes.

Deloris Karen said...

I don't know if that could have been said any better than you just put it. :o)

BabyLyons said...

You have such an amazing gift. That was a beautiful post.

High Desert Diva said...

Very well said.

Here's to our grandmothers...

natalie said...

Beautiful.

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