Two Minutes at the Stop Light

By Cheryl Weaver from the September 2012 Edition

Yesterday, I took the bus for an appointment that was a long way from where I live. It was the usual scenery I have seen dozens of times going to Valle Las Garzas until we came to a stop light, and those couple minutes clarified something profound I had suspected for a long, long time.

Like many of us, I have multitudes of friends and family in the States that are suffering from the economic disaster that seems to spread like Cancer and go on and on with no relief in sight. Professionals unemployed, beloved homes snatched away by foreclosure, mal-treatment of those working so replaceable are they, college graduates vying for jobs at the local drive-thru, and families moving in together, desperate to make basic ends meet. You no longer hear the economists talking about a temporary “recession”. At the core of the deterioration of spirit and pocketbook, hundreds of wise and prominent people in-the-know write books, hold interviews, publish statistics, prophet the future, and offer cause and effect theories as to how it all began, whose fault it is, and where and when it will end – stubbornly stating it will end, refusing even the slightest consideration that perhaps things have changed forever, and stubbornly cling to the insistence of the American Dream at any price is their due while they wait and suffer.

Let me preface my view by admitting I am not politically savvy. In fact, I rather detest the whole left wing/right wing Democrat/Republican foundation of American politics. It has a choke hold on the System, designed hundreds of years ago when population was all but incommunicable, spread out thousands of miles from one another. I fail to understand why, in this day and age of telephones and computers, voting for representation can’t be done by registering on-line or calling some automated computer (to which we are subjected contacting most any agency these days) and pressing buttons, allowing the majority to elect their Head Honchos. But I am straying from my point and, like I said, I am not politically savvy anyway. So for those of you with furrowed brow at this moment, I apologize.

At one time, America aspired the world as the ideal standard by which “the Good Life” was measured, admired, and emulated. For hundreds of years, Immigrants came in droves with stars in their eyes, willing to brave the direst of circumstances to mainstream with great difficulty into a culture so different from their own – for their children, for opportunity, for freedom, for education, for a better quality of life (eventually). Quietly, through the generations, they succeeded in obtaining the “American Dream” and were both proud and patriotic to have achieved it. My own Mother was one – who refused to speak Spanish in our home beyond “Callate” and told me in no uncertain terms that if I wanted to learn a foreign language, take a class in school. No matter that she struggled with the pronunciation, reading, and writing of a language not her native tongue. She was proud to have become an American Citizen.

When did it change to a mainstream generation presumptive and entitled of everything America had to offer? Did it start with the Hippies, the Yuppies, or Generation X, Y or Z? When did the knee-jerk reaction begin to dispose of things rather than restore? When did image become more important than character? When did students begin to view education as a pain in the ass and teachers in jeopardy the nature of their jobs? When did the majority of the employees begin to jump from job to job and be considered “stale” if they didn’t?

When did loyal friends and beloved family disappear with the click of the “Delete” button? Social activities become the primary basis for Church membership? Marriage and family optional? Children and love disposable?

Which brings me back to my two minutes at the stop light?

In the mid-day sun, a man in a wheelchair appearing to be in his 60’s or 70’s holds a broom aloft. A plastic shopping bag hangs from the back of his chair. He has no feet. He expertly navigates within the curbed U-turn access bordered by a landscaped island in the middle of the street with plants, trees, and grass. It appears he has been doing this a long time. There are no orange cones, safety vests in neon colors, traffic monitors, flashing light barricades. Slowly, he sweeps up the leaves and debris that have accumulated along the curb into a mound I assume is destined for the plastic bag. I wonder how he will manage this but am sure he will. He is almost finished on one side of the island, a good enough distance, without accolades except for his continued failure to be hit by a car.

I am in awe of the simple determination to retain his dignity and value to society, his community, his family. To work – not primarily for the rate of pay or the power or recognition but because to have work is what Mexican people see as an honor and a blessing, no matter what type of job it is. He does what he can, does a good job at it, and has not drowned in a pity-pot of how life is unfair, his disability and inabilities, or the abandonment of plans and dreams he must have had; his quiet acceptance of things beyond his control and insistence on doing something productive for the good of all. But most admirably, his willingness to find a reason to get up every morning and look to the day and see his destiny as living a different way of life, not the end of his life, nor pine away with stubborn insistence that he regain what was – and probably never have again.

So much, this seemingly poor, incapacitated human being, could teach the lofty foreigner who cries in his beer. So much the foreigner needs to learn. So much we all could practice and teach our children to right what’s wrong.

 

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