Urban Underdevelopment

Lately, I’ve been having trouble being patient, tolerant, and kind with the people around me. It’s as if I can get there in my mind, set my tone and intentions for the day, and then they are usually blown away by the end of my evening by the things that I have seen. When did everyone just give up?

When did they let go of awareness, of tolerance, of manners, compassion, conscience, of the things that give us hope?

I used to pride myself on being a woman that craves knowledge and searches for answers, a woman that explores and asks probably way too many questions for it NOT to be aggravating to the ones around me. I just always wanted to know things… things about other people, how they act and why. About what makes plants, animals, and humans the way that they are, and then search for ways to relate to them. I asked too many questions about what, who, how, and why when it came to almost everything that had life or movement. It was what fed me. It still is.

I’m also a firm believer that 80 percent of our knowledge comes from experience, and that by gaining these things, one becomes empowered. After a while, however, one can’t help but crave the innocence that comes from being blissfully ignorant… naivety is something to be mourned.

I bike to work in the mornings, and pretty much every morning I’m almost hit by someone driving to work that isn’t paying attention to what is happening around them, or I almost run into pedestrians that are on their phones or too in their own heads to realize what is going on during their walk. That I am trying to pass them, or just ride around them, and they don’t even look up to acknowledge anyone. Is it self-centeredness? Have people just become increasingly selfish? Could the world just be breeding more and more assholes every year, and no one bothers to try and stop it? Or is it that I have been blissfully unaware that this was happening, and am now just entering a state of higher awareness? If so, beam me back down, Scotty, because this is bullshit.

Then there are the people at my job. Customers. I did not sign up to work in a kitchen for the interaction with strangers. I usually am not good in large groups, although I can make friends with almost anyone and anything given a little bit of time; I am not good in short exchanges with people I have never seen, and then forced to play a strange game of familiarity and comfortable conversation. I love people but prefer to study most of them from a distance.

There are some really beautiful people that come through there, filled with happiness and love, really soft, lovely human beings. They take the time to converse and are attentive, and beautifully intentional. They smile and look you in the eyes, and are not afraid to be present. I am almost sure these few wonderful souls are the ones that keep us from going postal on the rest of them. They give us hope. The others, however, are a breed so absorbed with their own lives and dramas, so completely scattered and terribly unaware of most of their surrounding, they sometimes forget their own names, or what they ordered. This makes calling for them over and over or standing in front of them with an arm full of plates while they decide whether or not they actually ordered what the ticket says they did, all the more fun. With this particular species of turd, I’m lucky to get a thank you.

Then there is the bike ride home. By this time, most of the homeless people are out and about, soaking up what’s left of the day’s sun, and trying to figure out where they are going to camp for the night. Almost everyone has slowed down by now, around 6 pm, taking their time driving or walking home. In the summer, you could swear almost everyone is outside now, watching the sky paint the sunset and playing in the beautiful weather. Denver sings this time of year. It’s a beautiful place to live, and an even better one to explore (you can soak up experience and knowledge here like it was built to teach). It is one of my favorite places to be in the entire world. Which also makes me wonder if this lack of patience and intolerance on my end is the result of watching how some people behave in general, and not exactly WHERE they act this way… after all, how could a place that has a heartbeat this wonderful POSSIBLY be responsible for such ugliness?

I pass two women speed walking and I smile and nod, they do the same. This is something I treasure… growing up in Texas, it was almost abnormal to pass someone and NOT acknowledge each other. The more I travel (especially in bigger cities), the more I realize this is not the norm. It should be.

I trek up what seems to be the biggest hill in Denver, but in reality is a tiny incline to most people that bike… I’m kind of a weenie. I cross into a park and ride down the sidewalk for a bit to catch my breath. There are two men that exchange money for some sort of powder. The one man with the drugs sits back down next to a woman who can no longer hold her eyes open but can’t seem to keep her mouth closed. Watching her makes even me feel out of it. He reaches over and rubs her breast, and says something I am completely stoked I didn’t hear. I’m not sure if she wants his hand there, I’m not even sure SHE knows at this point. I get choked up. I want to protect her, but I know that I can’t. I keep going.

I pass several kids (ranging from 2-5 years old) playing in the street, and their parents, sitting on the steps of the section 8 housing, don’t even bother to grab them before me and another cyclist almost take them out. They glance up, and just keep smoking their cigs, and drinking beer, and talking about God knows what… I’m sure it’s how to solve world problems or how to raise their children to be honest and hardworking. One woman scrolls facebook on her phone while her son sits next to her crying. I get angry and try not to cry, too.

I told you… weenie.

I have to stop by the bank. There’s a concert at the venue next door, and a line of people around the block waiting to get in. I’m assuming from the ICP t-shirts and face paint that several of these people are Juggalos. Most of the ones in line are anywhere from 16 to 30 years of age. As I’m walking up, a kid in his late twenties is talking very loudly to a smaller group of people about ejaculation. He abruptly stops himself and says “I can’t talk this inappropriate in front of your mom!” I guess some girl was there with her boyfriend and mother, and he suddenly grew a conscience. The group laughed and said things like “Yeah, right!” and “We know you better than that.” He followed with “Did you guys know about me raping that squirrel?! Your mom seen it! She seen me out her window that day….” and I let it trail off as I shut the bank door behind me. I felt sick. The ball in my throat got even bigger. I texted my girlfriend and vented about what I had seen, and how sad it made me, and for fuck’s sake, why is no one doing anything about it?!

How had it gotten this bad? For the past several months, had I just gotten the worst days of it?

I always ride my bike with my headphones in. It used to be because I enjoyed the music, and I could match my rhythm with the beat. It was a nice distraction from the struggle. Now, I have to keep my earbuds tightly in, I can’t stand to hear the things that are said, the way people talk to each other. Sometimes the soundtrack is just as bad, if not worse, than the film.

My girlfriend wrote back, “When the Lord saw her, His heart went out to her, His compassion overflowed, and He said ‘you can stop crying, for I am here.'”

I breathed a little easier. Then I just felt heartbroken for Him. How does He witness this day after day, and way worse things all over the world, and not break? How does He do it and not turn His back, or get so angry that He gives up and just takes us all out?

And I thought I knew love.

I get home and finally allow myself to cry, to grieve. For everything I saw, and for the things I don’t see. And then for feeling bad that I’m grateful and relieved I don’t have to witness more than I already do. Followed by private conversations with God, some of it yelling in anger, and others doing what I can to console Him. I’m not sure God needs to be comforted seeing that He is GOD, but if I were Him, I would.

Someone once told me that you approach God the way a child talks to his/her parents: honest, simple, emotional. So that’s what I did.

I miss my positive view of other human beings. I want to bike through Denver again, and just assume that everyone is good. That people are good. I want to take notice of the trees, the flowers, the little animals that scurry, and the big ones that lead people around or sit in windows. I miss breathing deep and smiling, feeling like everyone is taken care of and no one was in pain. It’s not that I didn’t KNOW someone, somewhere, was having a hard time… it’s just that I felt like no matter what, they would be ok.

Was it ignorance or hope that drove me?

I know that I am not perfect, and I make more than my fair share of mistakes. This is not a judgment on the people that I have seen, but more of a plea with myself to see it differently.

All I know is that I won’t give up until I have a healthy balance of both hope and reality… and the wisdom to know the difference. The ability to glide back and forth, with the awareness of what is happening around me, the ability to help when I can, and the peace to let go of the rest.

 One tiny little humble step at a time…

– k.


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