Biff America: Lottery of affection
Lefty Gomez said, ‘I’d rather be lucky than good.’
That girl getting out of the school bus was neither.
America’s history of opportunity is ripe with those who have risen above their lot of both genetics and circumstance. But the fact remains that if you were born white, healthy, with all your parts working — you have both a leg up on income and contentment. I would have to admit my mate and I are two of the undeserved lucky ones.
We were chased out of North Dakota this fall by the weather, wind and the fact that face coverings were as rare as a tofu stand at a gun show. Considering that Canada was closed, we headed south. I drive as fast as I think, so we look for back roads where a speed of 55 mph in our small RV does not provoke stink-eye from fellow motorists.
We left the state highway and rolled through a rural community looking for gas and untaxed bourbon in Wyoming.
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Unlike most people, if I’m not rushed, I don’t mind getting stuck behind a school bus. Slowing down for children, who I don’t have to feed, is a small price to pay. We watched as youngsters burst out of the bus like newly released greyhounds and headed towards their modest homes.
The conditions of the homes were often mirrored by the clothing of the children. At one stop four kids exploded out the school bus. Ellie and I waited for the bus to move. Then slowly, a young girl emerged, preceded by two canes. On her legs were metal braces a la Forest Gump. She put one foot on the ground, teetered back and forth and finally made it off the bus. She was dressed in much warmer clothing than the other children. Her skirt and coat looked drab but clean.
Then, as the other children were running around roughhousing, she wobbled her way towards a small trailer home. The other children barely looked at her; or she at them.
My mate can cry at the drop of a hat — literally (explanation to follow).
Neither of us spoke for a few seconds; I looked over and saw Ellie wiping her eyes.
“That’s not right.” She said.
“No it isn’t” I answered. “Life isn’t fair.”
We were quiet for a minute before she added, “I feel like such a loser for complaining about bad days, minor injuries or that time when you dropped my new ski hat on a pile of dog poop.”
I was not kidding about her crying at the drop of a hat.
After a few seconds of silence she added, “Hey stoner, you can go now.”
The bus had long gone and I still had not moved. A truck behind me honked and passed giving me a dirty look; I offered an apologetic wave and smile. There was no one else behind me so I sat for a few seconds and watched the little girl make her way towards home.
If one image could encapsulate life’s inequity it might be that snapshot. I found myself thinking, what kind of karma could bless the undeserving like me with so much and saddle a child with such challenges.
There is no value derived from guilt for your good fortune or situation, but it is a sin not to recognize and appreciate it. And hopefully gratitude can be the catalyst to remind us to support a leveling of the playing field for those who, through nature or nurture, have been slighted.
We watched the young girl lurch towards her home. Just then the door burst open and a large lady wearing what looked to be a waitress uniform rushed out of the trailer and engulfed the child into her arms and ample bosom. The little girl seemed to melt into her mother’s girth. After a spinning hug the lady put her daughter down and the two of them slowly walked back towards the trailer.
The little girl looked to be talking and gesturing; the mother leaned over to make eye contact. Just before they reached the door the mum once again picked up her child gave her a hug and the child entered the trailer in her arms.
We drove on looking for gas and whisky and I think both of us were thinking the same thing. Life is not fair — but to be loved is to be lucky…
Jeffrey Bergeron’s column “Biff America” publishes Mondays in the Summit Daily News. Bergeron has worked in TV and radio for more than 30 years, and his column can be read in several newspapers and magazines. He is the author of “Mind, Body, Soul.” Bergeron arrived in Breckenridge when there was plenty of parking and no stop lights. Contact him at email@example.com.
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