Thursday, June 11, 2015

Not in the News

Every time I read “The Week,” I wonder if staying informed is really so important.  We dropped our subscription to the Connecticut Post and stopped watching the news years ago.  So far, I can handle The Courier, but even local news has been discouraging lately.  Still, it’s the bigger picture that is hard to face, the atrocities by ISIS, the oppression of women, and racial and ethnic hatreds unleashed.   As I drove to Super Stop and Shop on Saturday morning, I wondered, what is it with humans?  What is our problem?

I swung into the parking lot, pulled into a space, picked up a cart that had been left in the adjacent spot, and pushed it to the entrance.  Amidst the flats of annuals and hanging baskets of pink petunias stood an attractive young woman, slender, African-American, bright-eyed, and animated.  As I approached, she tore a sheet off the pad in her hand, gestured to a white truck in the parking lot, and said, “We’re trying to stuff that truck with food for the Bridgeport Rescue Mission (BRM).  Would you be willing to contribute?”

Years ago, Casey and I volunteered at the Mission’s mobile soup kitchen, handing out food and winter coats, and our friends, the Tresslers, often collect donations for the organization during their annual Christmas concerts.  So I was familiar with the Mission’s work and pleased to support it in a practical and easy way.

My own grocery list was short, so it was the perfect time to fill the cart for BRM.  I scanned the shelves, selecting dry cereal, peanut butter, and a multitude of cans – canned beans, tuna, and soup - as requested.

I was far from alone in the canned food aisle.  Almost every person I passed held the BRM list: a grizzled old man, stooped and slow moving; a heavy-set matron with a beaming smile; a young couple, their heads close together, perusing the list and reaching for some beans.  Good-hearted souls shopping on Saturday, given a chance to help, and happily doing so.

When I returned to the young woman outside the store, I felt buoyant with light as I added my bags to a cart brimming with others’ donations.  “Do you have any idea how many people are shopping for you?” I asked.  Grinning, she nodded, and I told her about my sad drive over.  I didn’t want to get all religious on her, but I had to tell her what felt so fully to be true.  “This – you, the Mission, all of those generous shoppers – are like an answer to my question.  An answer to my prayer.”  We didn’t hug each other, but that hug was alive in the air between us.

Robert Fulghum wrote in one of his essays that what makes the news, by definition, is the exception, and so it is with the media barrage of horrors.  People doing good is not news… and I have to remember that.