Saturday, May 28, 2016

I plead guilty!

It had been a while, a long while, since I saw her at the store.  I walked up to her counter.

"I haven't seen you around" she said. 

I smiled and nodded.  "Long time no see.  How are you?"

"Doing well, doing well" she replied.  "But, family issues ..."


"A mother who is 82, and an aunt who is 92" she added.  And then she leaned over and lowered her tone to say "mom is not all there.  Goofy."

Life is tough.  When we see somebody, we have no idea about what they might be juggling in their lives.  

"How are you?" she asked.

"Compared to what you just said, there's nothing for me to complain about" I replied.  

Meaningful interactions with people--even at the checkout counters--help me calibrate my own life.  To the people who engage with me, well, they probably have no idea how much they are helping me understand my own life and what it means to be human.  I owe all of them way more than I can ever pay.

"You off in the summer?" she asked.

She is about my age, working as a grocery store clerk, caring for two older women.  Against such a background, the summer months for which I don't get paid seems like a decadent life that Louis lived at Versailles.  I have no idea how the super-rich do not seem to have any qualms over the everyday struggles of people like her.  It is beyond my wildest imagination how they resist paying their fair share in order to help fellow-humans who are integral to the very society in which we live.  If we prick them, do they not bleed?

I deflected her question, out of guilt over my abundantly rich life.  "The term is not over yet.  Couple more weeks to go" I truthfully replied.

If only I could feel a tad less guilty when I do not even have to feel guilty!


Ramesh said...

Yes. We rarely know what somebody is juggling with. But then the law of averages is such that most of us face a proportional share of the good and the bad. Just as it would be not helpful to wallow in misery during the bad, it would be equally inappropriate to feel guilty during the good. So being sensitive to others while enjoying the good in a sane way is OK, I would suggest.

Anne in Salem said...

Perspective is always valuable, particularly when not gained while choking on one's foot. I am sure your acquaintance appreciated your asking about her.

May I offer an alternative view? Perhaps she works the grocery store job because it offers the most schedule flexibility, allowing her to take care of the two women in her family. And perhaps she's worked there long enough to have decent medical insurance, undoubtedly helpful even with the two elderly women on Medicare. I've known many people who have stayed at jobs they didn't like because of life issues like insurance and proximity and work/family balance.

Why do you assume the super-rich do not have any qualms over the everyday struggles of people like her?

Anne in Salem said...

Second question: How does the super-rich paying "their fair share" of taxes help their fellow humans? More money to the government often equates to more government, not more aid for the poor. Look at the analysis of IP28 here in Oregon - the increased corporate tax rate. $2.5B over six years income to the state. It will cost even the poorest families over $300 per year, the funds are not restricted to their intended goals (education, public safety and something else) so the government can spend it how it wishes, and it was predicted more government jobs would be created (need people to create and process all those forms and all those checks and all those unemployment applications after workers are fired because companies can't afford to pay workers and taxes) than private sector jobs.

More taxes does not necessarily help your acquaintance.

Sriram Khé said...

And I so believed that you folks would provide me with helpful hints on how I can enjoy life guilt-free!!! ;)

Anne is up in arms. Calm down. Follow Ramesh's example and relax watching Curry and the Warriors ;)

Everything that you write about, Anne, is the kind of discussions that we the people ought to be engaged in. We look around and notice that there are plenty of hardworking folks who, despite their hard work and long hours, are barely able to keep things together. If not for the safety net of Medicare, Social Security, and more, and programs like public education, plenty of people will be in shit streets. Meanwhile, the young--even the ones who do not party their lives away in college--who work hard in school and in their part-time jobs, graduate and find that there are no decent jobs waiting for them. There are plenty of such issues ... but, we are really not engaged in any real, honest, substantive, meaningful discussions. Again, the "we" is the people all around us not us here in this blog-forum. Instead of thinking a lot about all those important and urgent issues, we spend plenty of time arguing about the bathrooms that people should use, or about whether climate change is for real. The lack of leadership to elevate the quality of political discussions is leading us in the wrong direction ...