Saturday, January 17, 2009

Yes we can -- feel the magic

If I am fortunate enough to be spared the ravages of Alzheimer’s in my last years, I will remember the events of the next few days always. We live in an amazing time. History is being made, and I can sense it in the very air around me.

This morning I watched the first legs of President-elect Obama’s train rally from Pennsylvania to Washington. It was good to see him standing tall and smiling as he and Joe Biden waved from the back of the train to throngs of people who waited at the station, but it wasn’t he who inspired me today. Today I was moved to tears by the faces of all those people, young and old, black and white, bundled up in hats and coats and waiting for hours to share one brief moment of hope and promise.

Journalists on the train reported passing through rural areas, places where there was no obvious sign of habitation, only to spot one person standing by the edge of the woods or two on a barely visible rooftop, waiting for the train to pass. Those people waited for nothing more than to experience this moment today and share it with their children and grandchildren through all their tomorrows.

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Near noon, I rode into Baton Rouge with my daughter to take Lucy and Winston to the groomer. At the exit ramp where we left the interstate, a familiar figure sat on the grass to our left. He’s a thirty-something white man, shabby but not desperate looking, who has been somewhere near that underpass nearly every time I’ve been to Baton Rouge in the past year. Whenever I see the man, I also see his big, brown dog, the faithful companion who stays so close beside him that some part of the dog always touches some part of the man.

The man keeps long hours in his open-air workplace, displaying the kind of hard work and dedication that would earn him a good living if he were to apply the same effort in the business world. I don’t know his circumstances. I won’t judge him.

My daughter and I waited in the right-hand lane to make our turn. In the left-hand lane, nearest the man with the dog, a late-model SUV pulled up to the red light and stopped. In the next instant, our attention was diverted by someone running past us.

The driver of the SUV had left her vehicle with the door wide open and was running in high heels back toward the man. We couldn’t see her face, but she seemed to be a young person. She was nicely dressed and had long, straight black hair and skin the shade of brown that made me think she might be of Hispanic or middle-eastern origin.

When she reached the man, she handed him some money, but she didn’t do it in an impersonal way. She stopped and petted the dog, then reached out and hugged the man before she ran back to her car as the light changed.

High as I still was on the passion of all those people on TV who waited for a glimpse of Barack Obama, I burst into tears again. I wish that young woman knew how much she moved us today, not by her donation to the homeless man, but by her acknowledgment of his humanity.

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The new administration has requested that Americans consider Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a day of national service. I love to think about how much we can accomplish as a nation when we all work together. There's even a website (www.volunteermatch.org) to help us locate agences in our own communities who can use some help.

I checked out what’s available near my own zip code and found a few things even an older lady with bad knees might be able to do, but nothing I’m ready to commit to on a long-term basis. What I can do for this Monday, though, is go through my closet and pull out some of the perfectly good clothes I never wear (too small, mostly), clean them if they need it, pack them in the nice set of luggage I never use, box up a couple dozen hard-cover books that are taking up space, and drop off the whole kit and caboodle at the local Goodwill store. It may not reach the level of personal sacrifice a lot of people will make, but at least it’s a step in the right direction.

10 comments:

  1. That dog story got me. We have several homeless who are always with a dog. It breaks my heart.

    I'm cleaning out my closets too!

    The inauguration is exciting.

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  2. I have goosebumps and tears in my eyes from reading your blog today, Velvet! I watched the train today too and noticed the same thing, throngs of people, all with hope in their eyes. Your story of the man and his dog and the young woman made me think that there is hope that someday we can all be kind to one another.

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  3. I hope that this spirit of goodwill towards our fellow man will last beyond MLK Day and the Inauguration. It's about time we started paying attention to each other instead of to electronic devices. :-)

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  4. All this cozy hope and change will be short lived and you can bank on it.

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  5. It's too bad that Sally feels so pessimistic about the hope and change that abounds right now. It's up to us, and "us includes Sally, to keep the feeling going.
    Mr Obama is in a new job, and new employees make mistakes, and sometimes do or say the wrong thing, but we have to forgive him that, and keep the good vibes going.

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  6. Sally,

    'For nothing is fixed, forever and forever and forever, it is not fixed; the earth is always shifting, the light is always changing, the sea does not cease to grind down rock. Generations do not cease to be born, and we are responsible to them because we are the only witnesses they have. The sea rises, the light fails, lovers cling to each other, and children cling to us. The moment we cease to hold each other, the sea engulfs us and the light goes out.

    ~James Baldwin

    Cynicism doesn't pay. Lift your gaze to another direction.

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  7. I can always count on reading something wonderful here. Thank you Velvet!

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  8. You are so right, Velvet. If only the ordinary, every day people can keep doing the little things to make a difference and not too be so greedy - we can change things. We may even be able to make the politicians see it is in their best interest to make some hard decisions and not go back to business as usual.

    What a day! Made me so proud to be an American!

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  9. Me and my Sister was looking back at our first blogs today.....you were the first person to comment on my Sister's blog back in 2/06

    http://pattypenny.blogspot.com/2006/02/new-orleans.html
    I have been reading your blog ever since....Hard to believe it has been that long...

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  10. Did the magic make you disappear???? We miss you!!! Hope you, Butch and Sister Mary Katherine are all fine!

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Your comments might just be the very best thing about blogging. I love it when you care enough to share your thoughts here, so go ahead and say what's on your mind. Toss your own spices into this pot of stew.