What I do want to tell you about is a comment made to me by Patrick as we were driving home Saturday night. I mentioned that we had a quick cleanup after the festival ended at 6:00 pm because people were polite and did not leave their trash on the tables. He said he remembered how hard I had to clean up the Parish Hall after each night of the fiesta and then added, "I think it's the celebrities in California." I asked him to explain, which he did: "Mom, celebrities have a lot of power in California. Well, a lot of the people at St. Joseph in Santa Ana are poor, and they don't have a lot of power. So maybe making a mess is their way of feeling like they do - you know, they can make a mess because they know someone else will clean up after them. It's like you work for them." Heavens! I have to say, that is a rather insightful observation for an 11-year-old! I remember reading the book A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (in fact, (I've read it many times and if you never have, you should consider picking it up) and in the book, when the protagonist, Francine Neely, graduates from grade school, her mother and aunt take her to a soda parlor for ice cream. Set in the Early 1900's, Francine's mother is a poor widow at this time and the change from the tab is twenty cents. In the book, Francine's mother looks at the money, thinking how she can use that to buy the provisions for a few meals, then grandly waves it away, telling the waitress to keep it. Scolded by Francine's aunt, her mother explains, "For once I wanted us to feel like millionaires. And if twenty cents can make us feel rich, it's a cheap price to pay." Patrick's comments made me think, has our society changed that while once we bestowed our benefice on another to lift ourselves up - like tipping a waitress when we know how poor we are - now people instead reach up to drag a person to a spot below them in order to feel empowered - like leaving a mess for "someone else" to clean? Listen to our children, they give us good food for thought.
When I lived in California, as long-time readers of this blog know, I gave a lot of my time to my church, St. Joseph in Santa Ana. When I left, I had been a parishioner for about 15 years. I used to volunteer at our annual fiesta each year, and for many years I was La reina de la venta degunda - the queen of the rummage sale. One thing that used to DRIVE ME CRAZY was how people would come through and utterly TRASH the rummage sale. If there was a set of something - say, drinking glasses, they'd open the box and leave them strewn on the tables. Half-eaten food items would be left among the items for sale. Often, children were allowed to run through the area unchecked, and they would pull out the toys that were for sale, leaving bits and parts all over the floors. I would purposely take zip ties to connect shoe pairs together so mates would not be lost, only to have people cut them and then not buy the shoes, leaving me to trace down the pair, with one shoe on one side of the parish hall and the other one God knows where.
Why? Are people that uncouth? I wonder if my son (the aforementioned Patrick) hit upon something - people, in desperate circumstances, engage in such behavior to make themselves feel as if they have some power. But really? Is acting like a slob and expecting someone to clean up after you a show of power . . . or has "self-dignity" or "self-esteem" been redefined where yu no longer attempt to so something "noble" and thus raise yourself, but instead get someone to do something for you, although undeserved.
I will say it again: there is NO innate nobility in poverty. The "fat cat", over-consuming bigwigs of Wall Street and the welfare queens demanding entitlements while they flash expensive cosmetic procedures are equally despicable.