jolie laide

jolie laide

I started this when I lived in Brooklyn and struggled for grace in a city that grants moments of beauty and ugliness breathtakingly close to one another. Now I live in a place where things are a different kind of ugly and the beauty is pedestrian. I struggle with that.


A dozen years ago, and I am standing in the arts center of the social services agency I work at. The arts center director is standing next to me, and she is tired, not just from the efforts of this day, but of this week, of the years of struggling to bring services to this community.

We are watching a stream of homeless people enter the center. They are there to see a performance and she says to me, so weary:

I don’t know why we bother. These people have so many other problems.

I want to console her, I want her to know what she does matters, so I reply:

You are offering them something important. They are getting to have a “normal” experience despite how they are living right now. They can come to this place and be respected, come to a place that respects itself, where things are orderly and taken care of. It’s safe and clean and they are welcome here.

I know what I look like in contrast to the people behind me, shuffling into the theater. With my good education, my good teeth, my good suit, I know what I look like to her. And I know where my empathy come from and it should not be such a big surprise, but I have said what I needed to and I carefully shut my mouth.


Blogger famjaztique said...

I've know that feeling of futility...wondering if what you try to do makes a difference at all. And then there are those sparkling moments, so small and so brief, but endlessly renewing.

5:16 PM  
Blogger Dr. S said...

And I love the reminder of how we teach out all that we've come from and all that we've become, whether or not we're explicit about it for the people we're teaching.

6:18 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home