While watching my neighbors house billow putrid orange chokey smoke in the afternoon yesterday I couldn’t help but be selfishly grateful that it wasn’t my own house. I have been in that position too.
House fires are not funny.
From my perch, looking out through the office window, the scene on the street was textbook calm. People who knew how to proceed through each moment were working in presence to an end. I could do nothing to help anyone, so I did not join the crowd that had formed. Thinking back on the decision not to engage at all, I feel a bit selfish. Maybe someone was distraught and could have used the disconnected, transcendental words of their neighbor stranger.
It seems that is mostly what we have these days. People move a lot, and people die too. I am glad my neighbors are peaceful people, and so far in my life I have had good ones.
I am thinking of how to help. Lately I don’t feel like I help enough. When I do, I feel like I could do more and feel regret for the short-sighted approach with which I seem to address my unfolding present.
A recent example:
I was out in my driveway organizing something and it was a pretty gross day. Snowing hard, but warm–so slush. It was windy and well…January.
A guy in no coat or hat wearing only jeans, a tee shirt, and some yellow socks on his feet started walking up the drive toward me saying a bunch of things I could hardly hear. When he got close enough it was clear that there were some things to address.
I will say that I was cautious, but not deeply fearful. I wonder how I would have handled it differently if had no fear at all. I didn’t get a vibe that he meant any harm.
I could have been more compassionate. I didn’t let him in the house. I got him boots and socks and a coat and a hat and a sleeping bag and gave him the only paper dollar in my van as I dropped him off on the road to Medford–where he said he needed to go. He had walked two miles from the hospital.
It all happened fairly quickly and the sun came out, hopefully long enough for him to hitch a ride.
He said he got jumped coming out of the bar at Shiloh Inn early that morning. He had a fight with his girlfriend in Medford and drove here in his anger to get away from her. The assailants took everything including his shoes and left him unconscious on the frozen sidewalk. I guess he must have gone to the hospital too, which is where the yellow socks came from. They told him that there was nothing else they could give him to wear.
How can they release him into winter without some kind of shoes? It seems like that should be impossible.
I felt as if I had done what I could to help him.
Soon I realized that I was wrong. I could have done much more, and it could have been an opportunity of chance.
What I have learned is that I could have taken him all the way to his house in Medford. Selfishly it could have been a good story to collect, and then an hour and a half of solitude as I drive back. In return for my selfishness he would hopefully have been returned to his life. I failed to see that in the moment.
I could have helped him more and I failed because of fear and haste.
Because of the chains of selfishness.
I wonder how my neighbors are today. No one has been by except the Fire Department.