A former colleague of mine contacted me several weeks ago, knowing I am pretty much a sucker for all things diversity-education-related. He was organizing a tour of schools in my area for several of the people who work in his department. I connected him to some people I know and their tour was organized.I emailed to find out how it went and he said it was a success, blah-di-blah, and that he hopes to maintain a relationship with the city.At which point, my fingers disconnected from my brain and I went on a rant:
Agreed, especially since the [organization] has a site here. Further, … it only makes sense to build in opportunities to engage in community. Back east, there is a bridge in Trenton, NJ, that is visible from one of the major highways. On it is printed ‘Trenton makes, the world takes’. It sometimes feels the same with San Bernardino. I am further reminded of a visit I once made to Fort Worth, TX as a member of my old town’s Main Street contingency. The city was teeming with people during the day but at night, when the businesses closed, everyone left. They didn’t live in Ft. Worth, they only worked there. Many come into San Bernardino to work, to make money, and they leave without care for the people who remain and make their homes here.
Can you hear the crickets?Yeah.This colleague doesn’t live here and while he professes a heart for those who have struggles, he seems uncomfortable ‘getting his hands dirty’ so to speak. The idea of hugging a man, woman, or child dealing with homelessness is not part of his regular agenda. When he saw me do it — he and several other colleagues once came to where I volunteer and the people I hugged were weekly regulars to the food ministry — he cringed.I saw it happen: his body constricted as if he’d been pinched.One of the opportunities he and his colleagues had during this city tour thing was to spend time at my church’s feeding program on a Friday. I wonder how much he and the others cringed. He said it was a sobering experience for some.I bet: if you complain at making ‘only’ 80,000 per year (because your mortgage is upwards of $3,000 per month for your house with no yard in that gated community, the car note is about $800 a month, that Mediterranean cruise is coming and of course that designer handbag your daughter wanted, and the kids’ private school tuition, and let’s not forget their cars and allowances …), seeing someone who has no job, no home, and digs in garbage cans for meals for them and their children if it weren’t for the hot meals and take-away boxes from the church, I bet it was sobering.But they got in their $800 per month cars and went back to their western suburbs.Like so many others, they took.There is hope that it will sink in, that they will realize what they saw wasn’t a film but was a glimpse into the everyday real experiences of other people.And maybe, they’ll give back.