So I ran into an acquaintance yesterday who said he was saddened by one of my previous posts. Don’t join him. I write well and sometimes pull on heart-strings, but I also know that how I be is up to me.
I am fairly clear that my frustration comes from my expectation that people be more than they are or see more than they see. I will take as a case in point Shaky Swinebaum (a fictional character, but any resemblance to people actually living is entirely intentional). This later teenager comes to synagogue via the Forest of Filth, a copse behind his house on the right side of the road that I clean the left side of (hereinafter “Filth”). I must note here that I specifically exclude certain places from my cleaning endeavors just so I can watch beautiful places turn ugly and blame people for turning a blind eye.
So Shaky walks through Filth, which is all of a few hundred square meters in the middle of one side of our community, and he walks past plastic bags caught by the wind, candy wrappers discarded by children, a few heavy paper sacks of the type used to hold cement that have broken free from local construction sites, but all in all about five minutes work to clean up, and either he doesn’t see it or he is so accustomed to it that it doesn’t phase him, or he has taken on his father’s attitude of “you can’t win; so why bother.” I know this is his father’s attitude because he once said to me that he too had once made an effort to keep our community clean, and suggested that I would learn that it is to no avail.
But let’s not single Shaky out. Anyone who takes a kid to the kindergarten by car (don’t get me started), or who walks to synagogue from the Kibbutz side of our community, or goes to collect his post from my end, or walks for exercize could not help but notice Filth at some point.
So Shaky walks through Filth and on the path up to the synagogue (I keep the left mostly clean), past the mess of a garbage can across from one of our kindergartens, past the cups and wrappers on the right, and for the last week, in the middle of the path where the path circles some greenery, the pull top of a food can, and on the other side, under the greenery, a couple of coffee cups remaining after the last youth group camped out here a week ago, and he comes to pray in the synagogue.
He brings a certain intensity to his prayer, shaking, presumably in the presence of his G-d and in awe of the great words he is saying, in his T-shirt with the torn off collar, and I am just left shaking my head.
Then there is my neighbor, let’s call him Nota King. I have asked him to keep clean the area from his parking spot up to his neighbor’s garbage can, again the right side of my road, all of about fifteen meters, and he has indicated he has a bad back, and obviously can’t tell his kids to clean up either. While I like Nota personally, my esteem for him suffers every time I pass his house, as it does for almost every one of my neighbors, who don’t seem to be bothered enough to look beyond their own four or five hundred square meters lot.
But this post is entitled why I stay. And I suppose the bottom line is that my children actually have a solid social life here. This came back to me again the day before yesterday. My eight year old handed out invitations for his birthday party, to be held tomorrow. One of his friends had intended to celebrate on the same day, the actual date of his friend’s birthday. Instead of saying tough, or moving his party to accommodate his friend, they decided to plan a party together, and they have been busy at it since. Just yesterday, they were seated in council being advised and guided by my ten year old, without any parental involvement.
I just don’t recall ever having such an experience in my own youth, and like that my children are learning to plan for and organize themselves around a goal. And I am amazed at the character my child is showing through all of this. So I allow myself to be frustrated in the hope that my children will come out the better for it. But then they too walk past Filth and do nothing about it, and I am not always so sure.