Friday, May 13, 2011

One Day I'm a Lion, the Next Day I'm a Mouse

Original Guilt, that's what they should call it.

The reason why we give to charity is a hushed little secret.  When it's a young cashier at the local grocery store, white and pretty, someone we can relate to, it's easy to give.  But when we see someone under the highway, begging for coins, not so much.  It's so easy to look down, to look away.  They, "the other," aren't responsible enough to spend their money correctly, I'm sure.  We need a whole agency to make these decisions for them.  Who cares if this defeats the purpose of charity altogether.

Sometimes I think that if guilt never existed, neither would mankind.  If there were no consequences, if there was no little rule book - a Bible, a Qur'an.  What started this all?

I don't get the ending, I don't get the means.  Why not cut the middle man? Why not give directly to the poor?

I ponder this now as I am asked to collect money for my fellow students.  Money for more scholarships and a "better school," I'm told.  I'm one of the students receiving these very scholarships, but every time I pass by, I feel a tinge of guilt for not giving.  I wouldn't be here if it weren't for my scholarships.  I feel so low and inferior to everyone around me, so low and inferior.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Romulus and Remus

My family and I comprise a first generation immigrant household.  It’s hard to sum up every adversity we’ve faced in this neat little box. Money is tight, to say the least, and too often it’s a day-to-day struggle.  My first job was at the local pizza store my parents opened when I was nine.  Since then, my father has left us and come back again, and I’ve worked half a dozen other jobs to help make ends meet.  When I last met with my academic adviser, she scolded me as to why my grades were lower than they should be.  “Isn’t school more important than petty cash in your pocket?” she asked. I work two jobs, over 40 hours a week.  There is no cash in my pocket but at least there is food on the table and a roof over our heads. 

I was born into a family of pride, of honor.  My father was a professor, my mother a nurse.  My mother wore a dress on her wedding day with white grace and pure glory.  My sister and I were born “in the war years,” when the Soviet began to crumble and neighboring countries found weakness in our borders and luck in their endeavors.  These are the stories I was told. But we were well to do – there was always food on the table.  Fast forward.  Reach away like the limbs of an old, wise tree 20 years.  We have begun to regain strength in our stance. Third time is a charm, the story of our lives.  We have crawled through the storms. Through mud and fire and apocalypse.  I had my first white hair at 16.  I didn’t grow as tall as my mother.  My teeth as crooked as our paths, so many details not worth mentioning. No one knows, I won’t grant anyone the pleasure.  Not even here will I risk it.