Never say ~brutal assessment of human motives~ like it is a bad thing. The feel-good moments & actions of anything or anyone are only one side of many. Ever met a timid, helpful person with violence in his eyes? Like that. And let us never forget the audacity of the id(which is really an entry in & of itself, but I don't have that kind of time). Some people I help can be bossy & tactless. Most of the time, I help them anyway. I'm not leading my people out of Egypt; I am distributing clothing, food, & money.
I'd like it to be clear that this is not a jab at any standard-issue, Jersey Strong form of volunteer experience anyone else has had during the hurricane. This is just a small part, having chosen the part I haven't seen others cover, of my civic trek~ warped, bent, & refracted by my mind, such that it is.
While helping with a few disaster recovery efforts at the Jersey Shore, I've been listening to a Babel of ceaseless t.a.l.k. Don't you think if the mayor had(I love my mayor btw, & he worked 7 days a week during all of this)~Can't the president~How come the governor didn't~Did the utility company at least~. More questions than if I'd been stuck in a Scientology counseling center. It eventually all melded into petty incomprehension, but never once was any of it professed by the actual people who had lost their homes, it was the lesser issues that inspired verbal wrath. The displaced didn't verbalize much at all, but I do believe there were many silent pleas for help & guidance.
Why can't we allow the silence to hold for a while? Maybe it is harder to bear the vibrating with fatigue & tension feelings behind the unspoken words than it is to spew the spoken ones.
I was asked for a quote about my efforts. ??
I said: Our strongest gifts for empathy are often with the people we don't know. And tragedy being an essential part of the romance of volunteerism..
He looked startled & walked away. Ok, I get it now. I was supposed to humble/selfless/spin lie. Really, I do get it now. Come back little Sheba reporter. I'll do a less intuitive version, I promise. I'll pretend the civic-minded are never undone by their own hubris. I won't mention the damned luxuriating in self-regard. Promise not to touch on how it can become a contest between interest groups who argue minutiae into the ground. I won't tell you that you can't be comfortable with your instinct for the vulnerability of others without admitting what you do to sometimes hold that vulnerability delving at bay, both for self-survival & for self-gain. I'll front you my most likable persona, minus the sweat, pulse, blood pressure.
I'd love to offer gestures & words of charming innocence, but I am 47 not 17. Every side of helper has its own dubious variation of superiority. We are sometimes beguiled & repelled by the exact same element. Be careful not to drown in your own volunteer brilliance, because the basic ideas are all repetitive anyway. It is not pr spin boilerplate(not on this blog, anyway), it is a tangled truth.
Like the aging trustifarian guy who was verbally sawing off the branch he was sitting on. He helped out for 10 minutes and then started talking about what he labeled New Socialism(these types are always writing a book for 12 years), but actually he has a thought pattern more closely aligned with latter-Bolshevism(hope his parents have a strong lock on their front door). For the life of me, I cannot stomach one more skinny, private-schooled, confused, bickering, rabble-rousing misfit in distressed designer jeans. I'm a janitor's daughter but I own a fair amount of stock so it is a toss up as to whether or not Bolshie would advocate for my execution. I was going to give him props for his girlfriend's young Bianca Jagger~I need to help my people at all costs~hard, cold gaze, but then she dropped her elephantine, empty frozen yogurt cup on the ground by a destroyed home. So, I mean...
I tried to chat with them later but they were only interested in impregnable to revision carbon copies of themselves. I am nearly always a revision in progress, so that didn't work for me.
Having mentioned designer jeans, I must disclose that someone present said(not altogether inaccurately) that I was overdressed. Thing is, I don't like to look like a chimneysweep or a sister-wife when I go somewhere, & I've never claimed to be anything more or less than a capitalist. My silk blouse was a Picasso replica. Don't be a philistine.
I'm still waiting for the self-appointed "reporter" with laptop to come back & let me finish my quote. I'm drinking my Starbucks venti, & I saw him, earlier, jump out of his limited edition Range Rover. Let me float the idea that since he & I are not the ones who have been broken to Sandy's purposes, maybe we should STHU before we put the MF in do-gooder.
As more & more people arrived, it all got a little bewildering~ like when the zoo visitors are gathered around the cages & the other people are gathered around the mental cages the zoo visitors are in.
What grown men & women crying uncontrollably outside their 100% ruined homes do not need is a bunch of fanciful thinkers, gawkers, off the cuff speechifying, & 7 radio special bulletins concerning Snooki's donated cast-off clothing. Gee, it's cold outside & you like, don't have a home. Take this thong.
These displaced parents, with emotions unsuppressed~but light of touch, just want to fold their children between the crisp sheets of their own warm beds, but they can't. It takes very few words to explain that. We don't need a big vocabulary for loss. There is a shorthand to misery. Silence can be a remarkably efficient & respectful means of communication, an affirmation of human dignity.