Saturday, February 27, 2016

258 candles-day 5

I've been wracking my brain trying to think of what I can say that will mean anything to anyone about the current dismal, distressing state of politics in this country. And I've come to realize this: There isn't anything I can say. But there is something I can do.

My solution, based on the Chinese proverb that it's better to light a candle than to curse the darkness, is to provide daily candles in the form of links to other people's solutions, simple or complex responses to problems that they see. But as a single candle will hardly provide enough illumination to blot out the darkness that is the pettiness and meanness that characterizes this election cycle, I will light 258 candles, one each day between now and election day. In this way, I will do my part to remind each of us we are better than the baseness of the bases.

Today: Today I'm celebrating myself because I don't want to forget the little humanizing touches that will never be written up for posting or linking otherwise. It was above 50 degrees today in the hub and I desperately wanted to get outside and walk in the sunshine. Although I'd walked yesterday, my body felt the familiar ache of wanting to be in motion. When I stepped outside, putting on my gloves and sunglasses, I ran smack into Alice.

Alice is an older woman I've come to know who lives literally around the corner. She will turn 87 this year, and takes a daily or nearly daily walk around the block just to keep herself in motion. Naturally, at 86 and using a cane she is very, very slow. 

Alice doesn't know my name although I've mentioned it several times, but she knows my face and my dogs and as I came down the steps she greeted me as if we'd just been talking earlier. What I did, what was so small and good, was to walk with Alice the length of the block to the corner where she peels off to her apartment building and I swung off toward the park. I shortened my stride, matching her tiny steps with half-steps, and listened to her as we walked. 

I lost perhaps five minutes of my walk, or I didn't lose those five minutes so much as I postponed them. Now, I'm not about to convince myself or you that those five minutes made any kind of difference to Alice--she's unlikely to remember having walked with me or what we talked about, and may not even remember (again) who I am. But five minutes is an awfully small price to pay to keep the wheels of human behavior lubed. There's the old quote by the otherwise awful didacticist John Bunyon that "You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you." It's true, as what we are made up of, and what makes our frail human race ultimately greater than the sum of its parts, is the coming together of those moments that, in the best sense, are forgotten by both the payer and the payee because there are simply too many of them to keep track. 

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