Monday, January 14, 2008

La aplicabilidad de sustento, or the relevance of sustenance

On a snowy day in what can be considered downtown West Lafayette, Indiana a man--long in years and heavily padded to compete against the cold winds--asked me a simple, yet exact inquiry:

"Excuse me sir. Can I have a $1.79 to buy a cheeseburger."

My response was quick, and without pretence in its dismissive loquacity, wherein I posited:

"I am sorry, but I don't have it on me."

And, I kept walking, walking, ever so steadily walking toward my car, a 1999 Volkswagon Jetta. Then, it happened. An inspiration, a prick in my spirit, an engaged listening at the intersection of heart and mind.

The message was a simple one--you have the means to bring this man food. How so? I had a car, Wendy's was across the street from the corner Starbuck's, and though without cash in the pocket, I did have a Visa debit card. Wendy's took Visa debit cards.

After purchasing a number 2, or a double cheeseburger without onions (as if I knew if the hungry man liked onions, or not; still, I did not) I left my car parked in the Wendy's parking lot, and decidedly walked back to where the man had reached out to me for a simple meal.

I began to thank God for such an opportunity to be like his Son Jesus the Christ, though my multitude was in the category of 1. I looked for him where I had last seen him, but he had entered the local Borders bookstore. He was coming down the handi-cap ramp with a smile on his face as if he knew that I would be back.

Our meeting was brief with my gloved hand shaking his naked, wrinkled hand, which appeared to resemble an enlarged, pitted prune mitted glove. He said to me:

"God bless you sir!"

And I, filled with the emotion of both elation and disturbance, said:

"Not a problem. Why don't you find a seat and enjoy the meal. Grab some magazines and try to stay warm."

Why, why were you filled with disturbance you might ask. Well, as an educated man I wondered if I were utilizing my energies to eradicate such a symptom. What symptom: the tipping scales of the haves and the have nots.

This man and I were not that different, and though we knew nothing of each other, I wondered if my position of privilege to provide was one in which I was commissioned to perform. Had I truly any choice in the matter?

Arguably, to get in my car and to drive away certainly not only seemed feasible, but justifiably so for an amalgam of reasons I could easily articulate to my dissimulating disposition. Still, I am grateful that on this night, in this opportunity, and with a willing nature--I was responsively responsible.

I share today's story with you not because this is an evangelical moment, but this is a call to "follow through" on acts of kindness if it is in your power to do so. I did not give this man any money, but I fed him with a Wendy's number 2 meal (the drink of choice was a coke).

I did not debate on whether or not to feed him, or meditate on the positions of responsibility referenced via Emmanuel Levinas, or consider the ramifications of risk like a trained actuary. I simply--fed him.

Open your eyes to opportunities of kindness and respond. In like kind--you will remain...relevant.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Bonne année, no.

My Dear Readers et Tinkerers,
This new year I hope to continue our rhizomatic discourses of relevance. What binds us together amidst the multiplicities and fissures of our natures is, in the end, our citizenship in humanity.

May we agitate each other better, longer, and with responsible stimulation to do good work. May we look toward the erasure of false humility, true hypocrisy and ambiguous smiles, frowns, and stern aesthetic[s]. You will be judged, but offer up to the gaze your best.

Last year was a...good year of growth via chastisement, failure, success, hurt, sorrow and mourning, dancing and laughter, surprise and expectation, sickness, death and more death, and even the oil and water mescla of love and hate. Truly--serious, yet joyful and sagacious vita.

Let this new year bring, with its sister past, its cousin--future grace and the aptitude to follow through on relevant projects toward a better YOU. We are mimetic creaturas, and as such--expect in the year of our Lord--a grand 2008!