A Plague of Kindness

“Remember, you can stay at lady from our old church’s house,” my mom reminds me when I tell her about my upcoming trip to Fort Wayne.  “If you’re having so much fun you’d like to stay for longer, friend from middle school’s parents would be happy to have you.”

I have lived in a world of comfort.  I was going to write “relative comfort”, but I don’t know what more comfort there could really be.  At some point in Winthrop’s HMXP program we’re going to talk about “privilege” and I’m going to blush.  I have enough to get by.  I have enough to get by and then some.  Always have.  Don’t know how or why.  The insurance business.  The insurance claims business.  Libraries.  Stay-at-home moms.  There’s money in my bank account, and you can buy a lot of Steam games with it.

My mom reminds me that my Uncle Max (her side) or my Uncle Joe (his side) are great, caring guys who would always have a couch available.  I rarely take them up on it.  I feel slightly uncomfortable asking for it when there’s a car to sleep in.  I’ve slept in my car.  It’s no big deal.

There’s this family I met at a religious service, that one I met in band.  My friends’ parents’ houses, the floor of my friends’ apartments.  There are options to where I sleep.  Some ex-crush if I talk sweetly enough.  The bench in the park.

When I was running a knife down my forearm or throwing pain relievers in my mouth, I recall a lack of perception regarding my options.  It was either suffer or die.  Now I retroactively look back and see that I didn’t have to drive away, that I didn’t have to wander at night, that I didn’t have to scream.  They’re all there.  Those options, those choices, are present to me.  My mom keeps pressing them.  Kershaw and Hickory are sixty minutes away.  There are people there.  Ones I know.  Ones who proved their care long ago.

I suppose what I’m attempting to express is that not all people are vile.  At least a few of them aren’t sociopaths ready to kill you in the night.  Room and board exists, with friends, with family, with a love, with a person you find on Craigslist (be more careful with that one).  Suddenly, I’m sitting in the offices of people in power at my university and they’re warmly, openly speaking to me, and I realize that some degree of compassion is there.  I would not impose any gesture, but would accept it.  I imagine, were I in a tighter bind, that to laze about would be discouraged.  But mere existence, one where I’m not wondering if I should shoot myself in the face, can carry on.

This black-and-white setting is not how the world is.  Pain and suffering and the crassness of redneck druggies are elements of the world, but not all of it.  This always happens with the less fortunate, and it always makes me cringe.  The family in the slum is outraged at the family in the multiple-story home.  Spread the wealth!  And maybe the wealthier family should spread the wealth, from a moral or political standpoint.  But the ideal in life is not for all of us to settle for less.  Equality can also mean all of us settling for more.

Last semester, my class volunteered at a food bank, then had a pizza party.  I had to reconcile the two actions.  What I’ve come to realize is that I shouldn’t feel particularly bad about my pizza party, nor should I be lording it over the impoverished.  Really, I like pizza, and it would be great if everyone could have a pizza party!  Let’s all stay up late and eat Chex Mix and LAN our Xboxes.  Not just me.  Not just my neighborhood, my city.

So you grew up knowing cruel people, influenced by a parent who was hurt by cruel people, constantly reminding you to stay away from cruel people.  Cruel people exist.  I survey the land of my youth and I see my parents; my grandparents; my friends; my neighbors, and rarely in my life have I encountered someone overtly cruel.  You speak of nowhere to go, but you have a friend or a friend of a friend.  You have a couch somewhere.  You have a car.  You have choices.  You have people who will cook breakfast for you in the morning, because I did.  Do.  And anyone’s welcome.  At the risk of pretending like all that goodness surrounds me, exclusively, it’s to be noted that this plague of kindness affects more than I.  You’re bound to find some somewhere, if you explore.

I appreciate the sentiments of love and romance, of how I’m “the one” and I’m exceedingly special.  But I think on what makes me that, and what I come up with, for the moment, are things like “goes well into the night talking about feely stuff” and “shares video games”.  Darling, if you’re going to be so enthusiastic about me, find something extraordinary about me.  Those are common characteristics of most common folk.

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