Winter is coming

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When I make purchasing decisions for the library, I care about whether the product is of good quality, whether it serves a need for the patrons, whether it will be in demand. I care about vendor websites that work smoothly. I care about good customer service. I care about breadth and depth of selection.
I do not care about being wined and dined. If you are a sales rep and you buy me lunch, I will enjoy my meal and express sincere thanks, and then I will go right back to thinking about products and service and selection. Your tiramisu will not sway me.
But it seems to be the norm for sales reps to foist food on library purchasers — and hey, I’m not complaining. I like eating.
When some sales reps bid us adieu the other day, my department had an entire leftover pizza. For reasons I cannot reconstruct, that pizza wound up going home with me.
Now as I have just explained, I am a big fan of food. But as I do not want to become a big fan of food, I reluctantly decided to forfeit the whole pizza. I’m not so good with the moderation concept, food-wise. I’m fairly certain I would have inhaled the leftovers in one sitting.
So even though I have huge misgivings about wasting food, I decided to throw out the pizza. Only I didn’t want to toss it into my own trash can, because my trash pickup service is run by baboons — it’s the only explanation that makes sense. They keep forgetting to collect my trash and recycling. The whole time I’ve lived here, they’ve only once managed to get both bins two weeks in a row.

Now I am deliriously happy about the cold weather we’ve been having, but I still didn’t want pizza sitting in my trash can indefinitely. Even if it didn’t get all ookey, it would serve as my tell-tale heart for the sin of wasting food. But no problem, because I was going to the gym, right? I would just find a public outdoor trash can and dump the illicit pizza there.

Drove on over to the gym, and finally saw the homeless guy. I’d seen his sleeping bag on the sidewalk before, but this was the first time I saw the man himself. Well: it was a nice resolution for the pizza dilemma. I walked over and offered him the leftovers. He was in bad shape — speech difficulties, unbathed, some kind of skin disease, and it was nineteen goddam degrees outside. He doesn’t even have a tent.

I offered him the pizza. Then I went inside the gym and cried for the whole workout. Tried to vent some of the horribleness into the weights. I lifted heavier than I ever have before, stretched deeper than I ever have before, and drove my heartrate up into frankly dangerous territory on the bike.

And even typing this I’m kind of disgusted with myself. Look how I’m casting it: oh no, I saw a homeless man and it made me sad, I had to go and work out EXTRA HARD because I was so SAD, it’s so difficult being me, I actually CRIED while I worked out, please notice how SENSITIVE I am.

Because it’s all about me, not about the man who might freeze to death.

It was this time last year that I started volunteering at the homeless shelter in Asheville. I miss working there. That experience made me a better person.

ImageTo be clear: before I started volunteering, I already had compassion and sympathy and perspective. You probably do, too. Some people are either 1.) shits or 2.) very sheltered, but the rest of us care about our fellow human beings and can practice basic empathy. Volunteering at the homeless shelter did not teach me the true meaning of Christmas. I was already pretty good on that count.

Volunteering forced me to grow. It forced me to do uncomfortable things. It forced me to act responsibly in dangerous situations and to rein in my own unflattering tendencies — shyness, anxiety, irritability, timidity. My morals were already in fine shape; my ability to apply abstract morality to real life was not.

Somehow it is December already. I do not understand how this happened. I’ll try to post again this year, but even if I get too busy with holidays and work and other personal endeavors, I promise I’ll have my annual Book Rundown posted on 1 January. Won’t be as impressive as I’d like (it’s amazing how holidays and work and personal endeavors can interfere with reading time), but though I don’t write here as often as I’d like, I can at least deliver the goods on the new year.


2 responses »

  1. Jessica,
    You needn’t worry too much about a genuinely sympathetic viewpoint coming from your own perspective. “Cogito ergo sum” sums up our orientation as human creatures since organized central governments have had anything to do with “social services” or lack thereof. You performed an act of random kindness without being motivated by religious obligation or phony moral standards. You practice what you preach pretty consistently and publishing your observations in Ouroboros provides us all a thought for the day.Keep up the good work and perhaps inform a local shelter that this unfortunate individual requires some outreach services. Stay warm, buy good books, and adopt a meditate for mediation stance if such a one is in the Yoga tradition.. fond regards from Tidewater Virginia, your buddy
    Tom B.

  2. Great post, Jessica. You’re a better man than I. I once saw a young woman sitting on the sidewalk at a bus stop. She had a child with her. He had on a coat, but she didn’t, and it was cold. I swear I was about ready to get out and give her mine when the light turned green, and I drove off. Maybe she left her coat at home. Maybe she was warm natured. But the fact is, she had no coat and it was freezing out. This happened twenty years ago, and I still think about it. At least in twenty years, you won’t feel like a moral midget.


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