Tuesday, October 03, 2006

A Lot Of Work To Do

The past couple of weeks have marked the holiest time in the Jewish calendar. The High Holidays are a time of celebration but also solemn contemplation. Sort of a yearly performance review. While God is passing judgment on us all our job is to make up for hurting each other. This is the sort of personal accountability that draws me to Judaism. It is not enough to be sorry you are a murderer, you need to get right with your victims' family.

I don't think I have hurt many people this year. Sometimes I say unkind things (sometimes I publish them on the internet) but I really do try to treat people in a respectful way. I am not much of a law breaker. But I do fail, at least for my own personal goals, that I don't always put my money where my mouth is. I believe in social change, in trying to set people up to make a success of themselves. My husband is a great example of what a person can do if they work hard enough and if people believe in them. But I don't spend the time or money to help create that change.

Which is how, last night, a young man came to my door. Selling magazines for a program that teaches at risk young people about professionalism and salesmanship (and gives them things like help getting their GED, childcare, grooming, clothing, etc). I couldn't turn him away, even though I didn't need any magazines, even though at the time I wasn't sure he was even legitimate (he was, I checked out the group last night). I talked to him for more than an hour, about what he wants to do with his life, what he wants for his daughter. I hated myself because I couldn't invite him in (honestly, I probably shouldn't have opened the door--in my neighborhood you don't answer the door late at night) and I felt racist because the young man was black. Maybe it was racist. Though to be honest, in a more racist way, I think I would have felt more threatened by a young white man. Every young black man in America is an at-risk youth. If his parents are millionaires he is an at-risk youth. Society has set him up to fail. But white men (as a rule, obviously there are exceptions, one of them is in my basement) are set up in every way to succeed. So to qualify for this program they might be a scary mother-fucker.

I bought a magazine subscription (I wanted to buy more but SHIT those are expensive) for more money than I really have for that sort of thing. This was better than giving to charity because this young man really wanted to do this, he was sincere in believing that this was his big opportunity. I do not know what his life has been like, if he is an ex-criminal or did drugs or maybe he just didn't finish school because he had a little baby at home. Maybe he was making the whole thing up (which would be sort of an impressive display of what an excellent car salesman he will be someday). But I bought it. I was really buying this feeling of doing something.

But maybe I don't treasure that feeling the way that I thought I did. Because I am sitting here thinking about how maybe I should cancel that subscription.

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