Biff America: Pungent courtesy (column)
What a beautiful day: clear skies, cool temps, scintillating podcast and a nearly full bag of manure. Life is good.
“From each according to their abilities to each according to their needs.”
That creed gets painted with a bigoted brush since it is often associated with Karl Marx and commies.
Marx simply quoted it. Before that, it was coined by various movements both in Russia and Europe many years prior. Some contend the origin might be from the French utopian movement about 100 years before Marx.
Though perhaps a naive dream, it certainly would be a wonderful goal. “From each according to their abilities to each according to their needs” is more than some commie credo. I would suggest it also is very similar to the ethos of the principals of various religions of compassion, kindness and charity.
Actually those words might have been offered by Jesus.
Simply put, if someone is in need and it is in your ability to meet that need — especially if it would cause you little detriment — you should.
I have some needs. My mate has been pretty good about meeting them. And I reciprocate by picking up dog poop.
Now to be clear, my mate’s needs are not that I pick up manure around the ’hood, but rather, that is a need of my neighborhood. Our home abuts a popular dog walking route. Most folks are very good about picking up after their pets. But as the snow melts some land mines become visible, and my shoes often are a mess-magnet.
So, though we are dog-less, with shovel and trash bag I’ll occasionally go out, according to my abilities, and pick it up.
Now to be clear, I am not lobbying saint hood, I do, and have done, plenty of awful stuff over the years. So, as a karma repay for a fraction of that, I try to fulfill the neighborhood’s need in this one, rare instance. And, believe it or not, I do get some weird satisfaction from picking up the waste.
The best time for waste gathering is early in the morning when the temperature is cold and there aren’t many people around to look at you like you’re satisfying court-mandated community service. I put on old clothing and earbuds and zone out to podcasts.
I have found the best subject to listen to while picking up manure is politics.
Having finished most of the surrounding common area last weekend, I returned to my yard with a sack of goodies when I was approached by two guys wearing neckties.
They stood in front of me and one of them began talking. With my earbuds and poor hearing I had no idea what was said. All the savvy waste-gatherers wear gloves. I had to take them off before I could shut off the podcast, so as to not lose my place, and remove the headphones. It took several seconds to do that while they waited patiently.
“How are you this blessed day?” one of them asked.
“Great!” I answered, “It’s sunny, cool, I’m listening to a great podcast and I have a nearly full bag of dog poop.”
That did not seem to throw them, “Do you have time to listen to some scripture?”
Truth was I did have time, but I didn’t want to. In addition, I was a little annoyed. I told them kindly but firmly that I was busy and did not care to hear their proselytization. I could have left it at that but then I added, “I’d rather pick up poop.”
There is no getting around the fact that was a dickish thing for me to say. It served no purpose other than to be mean. It felt so good for a few seconds, but then I felt like the jerk that I was.
Those guys were actually living the above credo. They honestly believed that I, and all the other folks in the world, “needed” to hear what they had the “ability” to provide and they took the weekend off to do that. I did not owe them my time or attention but certainly my courtesy, respect and, perhaps, an apology.
They were still in the ’hood, albeit a few doors down and I thought I’d make amends. I headed their direction, bag in hand. Unfortunately, I got distracted by a couple of offerings I noticed en route.
I guess we all have to answer our own spiritual calling……….
Jeffrey Bergeron, under the alias of Biff America, can be read in several newspapers and magazines. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Biff’s new book “Mind, Body, Soul.” is available at local shops and bookstores or http://shop.holpublications.com/products/biff-america-mind-body-soul
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