Just Around the Corner

While in Washington, D.C., for an annual meeting, I left the hotel a little early and went to my favorite coffee shop to pick up a chai latte (double dirty, baby) and some orange juice. Since I had the time to spare, and Peet’s was pretty much empty early Saturday in the D.C. business district, I sat in a comfy leather chair next to the door in the corner of the store and idly gazed out the window at the world. After a moment, I noticed movement in a tent I had observed over the past day or so on the sidewalk, and presently a tall, thin man stepped out of the tent. After shaking out his legs and striding up and down the walkway for a moment, he got onto a bicycle and pedaled quickly away. A short few moments later, an equally thin but not so tall woman stepped out as well.

This is when the story takes an unexpected turn.

The lady walked up and down in front of the tent, and then suddenly turned and quickly walked into the street between two parked cars and bent down as though to remove something from the road. She was behind the tent, and double parked behind the cars was a produce truck offloading boxes, so she was completely hemmed in on all four sides. After she continued to crouch down, I suddenly realized she was urinating.

Once she was done, she pulled up her pants – further confirming her action – and walked away. This entire act took place in daylight, within view of several business buildings, apartments, a church, and the coffee shop. This woman had no privacy in which to perform the most basic of life’s functions.

It occurred to me that we were one block over and four blocks up from the White House.

Let that sink in.

When topics turn to sheltering refugees, people say we need to take care of our own first.

When we discuss aid to foreign countries, people say we have our own people to aid.

When the topic of food insecurity around the world comes up, people say our own are starving, too.

When we ask for subsidized housing for our homeless and low-income individuals and families, people say “not in my neighborhood” and “stop the government handouts for those who are too lazy or bad at making choices; it’s their fault they are poor.”

When we ask for insurance for our children, the elderly, and the poor, people say “we don’t have money for that in the budget” while simultaneously spending more on the military industrial complex than any other developed nation. Who are we defending?

When we want increased support for our low-income and food insecure individuals and families, people say “they spend it on the wrong things” and “it’s too much money they are getting”. The next day they bemoan the inability of their friends on assistance to get what they need, because “it isn’t enough to live on”.

The most basic tenet of Christian ideology (and many other religions with which I am much less familiar) is “love one another”. That’s the distilled version of The Golden Rule. We purport to be a Christian nation: Why are we not living it?

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