I live in a student neighborhood, so all sorts of abandoned items show up in my front yard. Windblown test papers, condom wrappers, unpaid utility bills. One time, a garbage bag filled to the brim with bottle caps was left next to my trash bin. Just to be clear, the bag wasn’t left in the trash bin, but next to it. At least twenty pounds of used bottle caps. I wondered why my secret Santa had collected them in the first place. And why the sudden change of heart?
Out in the gutter, last weekend, next to an abandoned red plastic cup, was a lone high-heeled shoe. I’m pretty sure the owner of this shoe, presumably a young woman, regrets the loss—black suede, nearly new. Did she limp back to her house? Without noticing? Despite a love/hate relationship with my student neighbors, I want them to survive long enough to graduate from college, and move on. Fall in love. Become successful entrepreneurs. Outstanding parents. Use their technical know-how to save our planet from an early demise.
Is my shoe-challenged neighbor pondering the New Year? I wonder what resolutions she’s considering. Perhaps she’ll opt for becoming the designated driver. Find a way to party closer to home. Recommit to her studies. Wear flats.
I’m thinking about my own New Year’s resolutions. Gertrude promises she’ll curb those snarky comments. I’m trying to be less judgmental. Both terrific sentiments.
But hardly enough.
Sentiment without action is the ruin of the soul—Edward Abbey
In my own town of San Luis Obispo—ranked as the happiest place in the US—there are plenty of homeless men and women sleeping on the streets. Affordable housing is virtually non-existent. Even with a farmer’s market every day of the week, it’s a disgrace that one in six are food insecure—nearly half of them children. Across the nation, there are needless, tragic deaths every day because we can’t seem to figure out how to legislate sensible gun control. Elections are bought by the wealthiest. Young Black men continue to be targeted in this so-called post-racial era. Our planet is melting away.
If you’re inclined to lend a hand, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.
I’m certain I don’t have an answer. Like a list of the five ways to ensure you stick to your New Year’s resolutions. That might be a blog worth reading. Or this article from Mother Jones about how science can help.
Lately I’ve been trying to focus on advice from the Pirke Avot, age-old Rabbinic wisdom in snippets small enough to linger over:
You are not required to complete the work, yet you are not allowed to desist from it.
Like the young woman who lost her shoe. She must have walked one wobbly step at a time, all the way home.