Guilt and Resolution
It’s a strange position to be in, to have returned to the U.S. six weeks ago and know I am scheduled to leave in one week. All of the things I have been going through re: readjustment, family matters, spending time with friends.
And the guilt. It has kind of crept up on me, so I cannot say it just hit me all at once. I started to really notice it when I was in Chicago, and passing by people who were panhandling. This is something I have always struggled with – while I try to donate money (when I have a salary) to good causes, I wonder about the individuals. Many years ago, I gave a person some money ($10) – not a lot of money, but then, I did not have a lot myself. The person SEEMED sincere, and swore to pay me back.
Of course, the person never paid me back.
After that, I decided to donate money to causes that support people in need, or to buy or give something instead of money. The reactions I got varied – in San Francisco, I saw a woman who was asking for money, and I asked her what she needed. She told me very specific items – I went right into the store she sat in front of, bought them, then came back out and gave them to her. She almost cried.
On the other hand, in Minneapolis, when I drove to work, I would pass a man on a daily basis – always in the same place, always asking for money. I asked him what he wanted and he said “money to buy a sandwich” because he was hungry. I told him I had an apple with me, and his response – “I don’t want an APPLE” told me that perhaps he was not so sincere.
Yet I still feel a sense of guilt when I pass people who are panhandling. Perhaps it is part of the “there but for the grace of G-d” thought – after all, I myself have been through some serious challenges in the past few years. However, I have people with whom I can stay, who are so very generous – from letting me stay and picking up the tab for dinner, transport and the like to buying me a gift to take to Suriname. This includes not only my parents but a number of wonderful friends as well. I am so very grateful to them all for their kindness and generosity.
Yet I still feel guilty. Simply living in America, even though I am, financially, not at the top of my game, so to speak – I am still better off than so many others, and I cannot help but be overwhelmed sometimes. The other day, I was dropped off at a SuperTarget, because I wanted to get a few things. I walked in, found two items, got overwhelmed by things, and walked back out. I was nearly in tears. I had to wonder – will I ever get used to these feelings? Will I be able to go with a friend to an outlet mall and not feel like I am going to lose my mind and have a breakdown when we walk into the Levi’s store?
Will I ever get over the feeling of guilt that I have, that we have it so good here when so many others have it so badly, and it was merely luck of the draw as to when and where we were born?
Will I be able to resolve the feelings I have – trying to do something good for the world and the guilt for the inequity, both in the world and in my own country?
I titled this blog post “Guilt and Resolution”, but the truth is, I don’t know if I will ever find resolution, or whether I WANT to find it. If I find it, will that mean turning my back on my desire to help others? If I find a well-paid position after my assignment in Suriname, and have nice things again, does that mean I am a hypocrite? (Not designer brands and stupid expensive, but nice quality). Will I continue to try to seek out ways to make a difference, and be able to do so even more when I have more financial resources?
I have had an opportunity in the past four or so years to really get a better understanding of what financial struggle is – having to short sell my house, working contract positions, going on interview after interview with no hiring, then living in Ukraine and soon Suriname. Will I lose that perspective, or be able to channel it into meaningful work (that also pays the bills, and oh my, the student loan bill is big)?
As with all of the questions I have posed in my blog, I may never get answers. But I am asking, and to me, if I am asking, then I am, for now anyway, aware and mindful, which is a start.