Now, lest you think that I have forgotten my manners or taken to coarse language, more than usual, the title of this blog is attributed to the mother and father of one of our good friends. MJ and I spent several years socializing with a married couple who were professors at SIUC. One evening as we were enjoying our cocktails and reminiscing regarding experiences that we had partaken of and travels that we had enjoyed, they told us of the gentleman’s parents saying when they passed someone who had broken down on the side of the road, ‘poor dumb bastards.’ I must admit that I was taken aback by what appeared to be an insensitive and compassionless comment regarding another misfortune. In reality we learned that the parents were extremely civic minded and had risen high in political life and academia. The statement was more of an acknowledgement of the vacillating vicissitudes of life. One day we are up and flying high without a care in the world…and the next…we are poor dumb bastards!
As I was getting petrol, this afternoon, when I saw a man attempting to change a flat tire on his Mercedes Benz automobile.
We all receive our, ‘turn in the barrel.’ Or as pastor Kerry spoke yesterday of the Buddhist belief that life is predicated on suffering. When we are at the top of the mountain it is difficult to recall how it felt to be in the valley. When the health prognosis is good and the debts are paid and we are on our way to an exotic destination…our kaleidoscope is full of bright and happy colors. But…nothing lasts.
It is a gift to be able to recall being so poor that you had to save your pennies until you had a dime, in order to purchase a glass of milk at the local restaurant. Or to recall standing in a commodity line for government cheese and dried milk and potted meat. Or to remember how you felt when you saw the workers throw the food at the hungry people…of which you and your mom were a part of.
Empathy is a beautiful emotion…and it comes in many forms.
We were talking the other day about people and families who are financially secure, and we agreed that most have had a ‘hand-up’ or a fortunate break in their lives. You may not want company when you are on top of the world…but when you are in the garden of Gethsemane…nothing is more lonely.
Have you ever been in the ecstasy of happiness and good times and all is right with the world…and wondering when the other shoe was going to drop? When I first retired many of my former colleagues inquired of me as to what I was going to do. When I said that I was going to enjoy life…they looked at me as if I was from Mars. I also heard that I was retiring much too young, to which I replied that would not be true if I only lived five years. None of us have a guarantee or an end date stamped on the heel of our left foot.
So, in truth…we are all poor dumb bastards on a roller coaster journey through this ever changing life….and we all need a friend and a confidant and a person to assist us on the road back to Jerusalem.