A Lesson In Compassion

Published by Rick on Tagged Uncategorized

I was out today for my day-after-Christmas walk, really just looking to get outside and see if the fresh air could help relieve my near-traditional Christmas holiday illness, which actually began a few days before, accelerated during my Isle of Wight gig, and sort of hit full force by bedtime Christmas Eve.

I was worried Christmas would then be a difficult day in the sense that I would be out with my “new” family, which includes my girlfriend, her daughter and son-in-law, and their two primary school-age children, who are lovely, but both hyper in different ways. That hyper-ness would have been aggravating to me, except that their parents handled the kids with such an admirable amount of calm, what sort of dick would I be to get upset? Our Christmas dinner was actually quite pleasant, and once we got back from our mildly posh Christmas roast at a nearby pub (thus omitting that usual ordeal of cooking), we basically splintered into segments, plus there was PLENTY more food in case we hadn’t had enough.

One of the kids got an electric guitar for Christmas while the other got a small set of drums (both courtesy of grandma), so obviously my musical knowledge was going to be called upon. I showed the boy (age 8) how to play an A and an E chord, and I suppose anything he figures out beyond that is gravy. I helped set up the girl’s (age 6) drums, and while her natural rhythm hadn’t manifested itself, I was at least able to show her a drum roll or two, as well as how to move from drum to drum. Job done! The rest of the day was spent watching TV at the family home and then back at my girlfriend’s.

It was back there where the sickness took full flight, and I was forced to take one of my zonk-out prescription sleeping pills as my insomnia over the past few weeks has been exacerbated by this growing condition. It always sucks when you feel the bad taste in your mouth one day and know this is a preamble for the cough spasms, runny nose, the lack of energy, the coughing up of lugeys, all contributing to make sleep an extreme luxury while you become a burden to whomever is around you. This all transpired from last weekend until last night, and there is virtually nothing one can do other than take lots of medicines and wait the sucker out. My lady had already been sick for two weeks with the same thing.

Really, this all was not the reason for writing today, for all said and done I had a lovely Christmas and a pretty good week. Today depressed me in a different way, in that I saw people to whom Christmas and life in general have been really vicious to. Maybe some of it is their own doing, maybe they truly have just so completely alienated themselves out of the concerns of family and friends that they really are alone in this world. Whatever has gone before is anyone’s guess, but the fact remains that what you see before you is the product of an implausible series of bad breaks possibly combined with just out and out giving up.

One person in particular has been a fixture in my North London neighborhood as long as I’ve been living here, and probably a long time before. She usually plants herself in front of the Sainsbury’s market on Stroud Green Road, and begs spare change in a barely audible tone. It’s looking at this woman that can really break your heart, as she appears to be wearing everything she owns, and has perhaps three visible teeth. There were times I’d given her some spare change, then decided since she was such a regular, I’d give her little bits of food I might have just picked up from the market.

I eventually had to make myself stop even doing this when I happened to pass by a phone booth and see her inside clearly heating up the crack pipe, and maybe hoping whatever high she gets will take her away from all her suffering. Still, I was a bit offended, thinking this was all my good deeds meant to her, so I decided to refrain from doing her any more favors.

Today I reneged! I was in a crap mood about my health combined with some other issues, and part of my reason for taking the walk was to alleviate that, also to take advantage of the fact that in London, it’s not pissing down rain and potentially flooding people out for the third time in a month, as it is in the northern counties. Plus it’s actually quite warm for this time of year. I had decided near the end of my walk to stop in at the Sainsbury’s and get some things for dinner. There was that same familiar site, this pathetic woman who literally lives from day to day, and probably from high to high. She asked for spare change, and I let my mood take over, “Not today, dear,” I said abruptly. I got about 10 feet inside the store, and had an attack of conscience. I looked at what change I had, 70 pence, knowing that in my other pocket I had £50, and immediately walked out to her, apologized for being rude to her, and blamed my attitude on “I just had a fight with a girlfriend.” That wasn’t true, but the truth to me was if her plight affects me in any way, and there’s something I can do about it, then I’d be a total jerk not to, especially at this time of year, where this woman has no one in her life except others who are in her same situation, and all likely fighting for that same crumb of bread, or hit of heroin. 70p was not a lot, but my conscience was clearer.

I always thought “Tonight thank God it’s them instead of you” was a terrible line in the Band Aid song, and I give Bono credit for changing the line in the 30-year version last year. Until I gave that woman 70p, I felt like I was taking that same attitude. Happy times wherever you are!

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