Saturday, March 30, 2013

Poverty - The Flip Side.

 A Holy Saturday Story

Yesterday I had to mail a package - UPS it, actually.  Since I was in the neighborhood - of my little UPS shipping outlet - I stopped at a place called ARC - it's like a Goodwill store, only operated by the county.  On occasion I stop by to look for frames for my paintings, hoping against hope I'll come across a lovely Renaissance tabernacle frame. 

What struck me as so funny yesterday was my immediate revulsion upon entering the store.  I experience a similar feeling sometimes in antique shops - only then it's a sense that I'm looking at dead people's stuff.  Yesterday was different however.

For one thing, the place was packed with customers.  I couldn't imagine why so many people were there 'shopping'.  The store had a lot of Easter things - used - so would people really buy that stuff, I wondered?  Then I recalled ARC advertises on TV as having hidden treasures, therefore I decided that must be it... Except everyone looked poor and rumpled - not one fashionable suburban housewife in sight.  I myself had very cool bed hair and a day's growth of beard, and I was dressed in my painting clothes as well - so I imagined I fit in. 

Despite management's best efforts to simulate a standard retail store; aisles, counters, clothing racks, and so on - the place is a mess.  It also smells.  Like old stuff and insecticide.

Oddly enough, I ran into the same two Somali women who are always there when I am, either working or rummaging.  They wear what Muslim women from Somalia always wear.  They were speaking to a huge, mentally disabled girl, who also may work there, although all three appeared to be shopping yesterday.  The girl - young woman - shopped while speaking loudly and clearly to her mother on her cell phone - did I mention really loudly?  Just then I imagined I heard Karen Walker calling me, "Oh honey - let's get the hell out of here!  These people are freaks!" 

I didn't find any frames.  Some of the junk I noticed in the store is what I refer to as, "stuff that should never have been manufactured in the first place."  Although I did notice two large, signed prints that were quite good landscapes.  If I were a dealer I would have snapped them up for resale.  While looking at them I smelled alcohol on the breath of a rumpled, crazy looking man who happened to walk by me.  I moved on.  Strangely enough, I bumped into a little old lady, who seemed to be following me with her empty cart, since no matter where I was in the store, she was there too.  She was probably a pick pocket. 

I left the store promising myself I'd never return - convincing myself it was because I never find anything decent there anyway.  Although, lurking deep within my denial, I was thinking to myself, "The poor are so disgusting."

I know! 

I think I love the poor and disabled, but I'm really repelled by them when I'm not feeling all pious and kind hearted, or just in a bad mood or preoccupied with my selfish sensuality and self-seeking.  I thought to myself, "What if I had to live with these people?  What if I had to live with those Somali women, or that retarded girl?!"

See what a sanctimonious, holier than thou, hypocrite-jerk I am? 

Every day and every hour, every minute, walk round yourself and

watch yourself, and see that your image is a seemly one. You pass by a

little child, you pass by, spiteful, with ugly words, with wrathful

heart; you may not have noticed the child, but he has seen you, and

your image, unseemly and ignoble, may remain in his defenceless heart.

You don't know it, but you may have sown an evil seed in him and it

may grow, and all because you were not careful before the child,

because you did not foster in yourself a careful, actively

benevolent love. Brothers, love is a teacher; but one must know how to

acquire it, for it is hard to acquire, it is dearly bought, it is

won slowly by long labour. For we must love not only occasionally, for

a moment, but for ever.
- Fr. Zosima, Brothers Karamazov



  1. If you really want a reality check, next time you go there, take the bus.

  2. Beautiful quote, "walk around yourself." Just spent part of the morning at Goodwill myself, looking for cheap gaudy silk neckties to dye Easter Eggs with. You've described the scene very well, except for the people... The lady at the counter was so sweet and kind. I always feel not good enough to be in there, since I'm not shopping there out of necessity.

  3. Pat, Goodwill may have a different demographic; their average shopper is a woman in her 50's whose household income is $75k+.

    Terry, it's a non-profit called ARC of whatever county you live in; formerly known as the association for retarded people. Yes, the giant girl works there. Muslim women from Somalia is repetitive; Somalia is entirely Muslim, which is one reason they have trouble fitting in to places with other options. They call freedom of religion, not realizing that their freedom ends when it infringes on mine.

    I haven't been there in ages so no idea of the quality of merchandise donated lately. Because other thrift chains are expanding and the economy isn't as good I can only imagine that there's more competition for fewer donations, which made me question why the expansion once the economy tanked. VV used to get a lot of really great stuff, like high-end clothing with tags still on, unworn designer shoes. I don't know if they do anymore, simply because even those with higher incomes may be more cautious now. I haven't even gone thrifting since last summer, nor have I shopped at regular stores.

  4. See what I am without God? Without grace? Without charity? Sounding brass, a clanging cymbal.

    Happy Easter Poodles!

  5. Cool - snap!
    I keep a copy of that charcoal etching on my bookshelf above my office desk - to remind myself of the mutual reciprocity demanded of us in kenosis to His Gift (tho' I often fall short in the corporal works dept. I find spiritual works easier, maybe too easy, uncharitable overzealousness wounds the Mystical Body just as painfully as our neglect of the poor, mea culpa mea culpa, mea maxima)

    Happy Vigil of Easter!

  6. On the contrary you look good!! that your real picture in your profile? I assumed you were a fat man with glasses and, still, I loved you! but I was surprised ..Don't know why.
    So, from this post on the poor...I deduce you would not like to live with me..hope the visit to your blog is ok. retarded? How did you know the girl was retarded? Do you have an expertise in the field of 'retardations'? Did the girl hold a certificate or an inscription that said so??

    Ah..maybe, you would say 'was obvious', like her size was obvious..
    behaviour..? speaking loudly?

    Sorry, you don't need to answer. I just wondered what to do so people stop thinking .... you know?..No matter that you learn their language,have a degree, or can read and write as achild.. there is still something people see... Not fair . You paint great write very well, I am not jelous, sorry that I opened my heart with my anxieties, I hope you will understand, happy that you wrote this post. you have a beautiful soul, the rest is appearence, a veil..(the obvious) I visit your blog often. It is good. Hope you don't mind. God bless you . Happy Easter

  7. Dear Mrs. Wells - You flatter me.:) That is not me in the photo - I'm much uglier. I also fear I do not have a beautiful soul.

    My post was meant to be 'flip' - or flippant. Snap judgements enter my mind when I'm not 'feeling' all sweet and pious. I was in a bad mood that day, and trying to even think a charitable thought seemed difficult. Sometimes uncharitable thoughts and random sarcasms pass across the monitor in my brain like pop-up-ads - sometimes in their entirety before I can delete them. I try not to consent to such uncharitable judgments. Othertimes, I 'expose' them and try to joke myself out of the mood with politically incorrect terms, and absurdities - such as a sweet little old lady being a pick-pocket.

    I'm a terrible man.

    Very seriously, I am sincerely sorry if you were offended.

    You make an interesting statement when you ask:

    "I just wondered what to do so people stop thinking .... you know?..No matter that you learn, their language,have a degree, or can read and write as a child.. there is still something people see... Not fair ."

    That happens to me as well - I am often sterotyped/pigeon-holed too. I'm ashamed I did it to others here.

    Thanks so very much for calling me out on my mistake. You are very kind and generous in doing so. You have filled my day with joy.

    Thank you and God bless you!

    Please pray for me.


  8. Yeah, the smell can get you. I've got a pretty weak stomach though. It gets to a point I suppose where hygiene doesn't seem so important. It might even be that it gets too expensive.


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