I went shopping yesterday with a friend. Normally, I ride the electric carts or someone pushes me in my wheelchair.  However, my friend and I figured we could get my wheelchair out of my car, but probably not back in.  So I decided to rely on the kindness of the stores.  At Bed, Bath and Beyond, there is no cart to ride on, not even a manually operated wheelchair.  So I toughed it out and trekked through the store leaning on a regular shopping cart.  At the end of a circuit of the store, my knees were killing me.  The next stop was Randall's, who, God bless them, have several electric carts available for shoppers.  Here, the only problem I encountered was other customers.  You see, like many stores now, Randall's had some moveable stands in the aisles.  The problem was that one of them was placed right by the product I was shopping for..  You may also not realize that a  pair of bifocal wearing eyes has to be positioned just so to be able to read the labels on the shelves.  Unfortunately, that position is more or less right in the middle of the aisle.  Between my cart and the freestanding displays, I was blocking traffic..For the first minute or so, I was alone on the aisle, so there was no real problem.  Then along comes a woman with her cart, in a hurry.  She walks up right in front of my cart, purses her lips and stands there, waiting for me to get the hell out of her way.  Now, for my shopping purposes, it would have been better if I could have pulled forward.  No, I had to put down my shopping list and coupons and back the cart up since she was firmly planted in front of me and clearly not in the mood to back up herself.   Once I moved, she sort of flung her hair, huffed and pushed past me, making her displeasure at having to wait on me abundantly clear.  I wanted to wheel around and run my cart up her ass!  OK so she's gone.

I moved back into position and resumed my interrupted shopping task.  The next person comes up along the aisle behind me.  Oddly enough, I didn't see her as soon as she pulled up behind me.  Instead of saying "excuse me"  she must have stood there a bit waiting for me to move out of her way.  Since I was consulting my coupons and the labels on the shelves, I was unaware of her presence until she coughed.  Sort of the disabled shoppers version of having the person in the car behind you honk if you don't jackrabbit forward as soon as s light turns green..  Again, I put down my list and coupons, interrupting my task again and move out of her way.  For the next fifteen minutes, I experience this sort of thing at least a dozen times, including a time that someone had gone around me and was now purusing the shelf in front of me as someone again comes up behind me and eventually loudly clears her throat.  The woman in front of me seems completely oblivious to what is going on, so I turn around in my seat, and smile sweetly and say "I'll be happy to back up and get out of your way, but you will need to back up and give me some room so that I can."  She looked at me like I had just pointed a gun at her and demanded all her money and the groceries in her cart.  I won't even attempt  to describe the incident with the woman on her cell phone.  The point of this is that what would have taken me a maximum of two minutes to do ended up taking over 15, because every woman who came down that aisle clearly expected the disabled person to get out of their way.  Only one woman who came down the aisle was at all polite to me, saying "no no, I was looking at something, you're fine." when I said "Oh, sorry, let me get out of your way."  Strangely enough, the few men who came down the aisle were exceedingly polite.  One of them, as I stretched to reach a product, took it down from the shelf and said "Is this what you were trying to get.?"  On almost every aisle, this scene was repeated.  On the frozen foods aisle, a woman barged up and opened a door that was clearly blocked by my cart, slamming it into my cart while she reaches in through a 2" crack and tries to extricate an item that's wider than 2"!  At least she didn't glare at me.  She didn't even meet my eyes, just stood there, holding on to the selected item, until I moved out of her way.  

One of the advantages of a liberal arts education, is that one learns about the behavior of rats left to breed uncontrollably in a closed cage, and how they react to each other when resources such as food and water become artificially scarce.  My friends, we have become a society of such rats.  I am convinced.  What was scarce during my shopping trip was not food or water, but time.  Everyone is in a hurry, and the weak are just climbed over by the strong.

Of course, it goes beyond my shopping trip last night.  It is in our social policies and practices, where the poor, the poorly educated, the traumatized young, the disabled, the homeless, the mentally ill are seen as inconveniences and blamed for their situation. While nobody is yet crass enough to say it, the body language and the attitude is clearly that we should just die and get the hell out of the way of the strong.  How dare we hope for financial help.  We should just get jobs and quit feeling sorry for ourselves.  You know what?  I don't feel sorry for myself.  I feel frustrated by people who don't acknowledge reality.  There aren't enough employers willing to make enough concessions, and many of the ones who do make concessions offer inadequate pay as the price for making those concessions.  Why?  Well, there are plenty of healthy rats they can hire!  Healthy rats who will do the jobs of 2-3 rats and take their stress out on....the unhealthy rats like me.  The employers are also in a hurry to get their work done, get their product out on the shelves and sold, under pressure to maximize the benefit for the cost.

When I look out at the wider world, I see the same thing happening in other nations.  I can't help but think it has something to do with the population growth.  If you look at it, Earth is a "closed cage."  Now while I grant that God has the power to suddenly make its surface double in size, He has yet to take any steps in that direction. I am the kind that asks "What does He want of us?  We were commanded to love Him, to love our neighbors as ourselves, and to be stewards of earth."  I don't think He wants us to be a society, or a world, of rats, scrambling over each other to make sure each of gets "MY ___"  (money, food, water, dream estate, etc).  To me, the real signs of Christian commitment are how one treats the less fortunate, the sick, the elderly, the disabled,, the damaged -- regardless of whether they have served in the military or not., whether they are "just like me," belong to the same political party, race, age group, economic class, etc.  Perhaps it is also time to ask ourselves if God really wants us to breed without limit and overwhelm this earth to the point that we live in a constant state of war over water and food.  Forget oil.  You can live without oil.  Humans did so for thousands of years.  You cannot however,live without clean water to drink, food to eat and air to breathe.  Think about it, and get back to me. And be warned, the next time I go shopping and am treated the way I was yesterday?  I won't get out of your way.  I'll make you wait, because my time is just as valuable to me as yours is to you, and I am worth every bit as much as you are -- mobility impairment and little electric cart and all.  I am God's child just as much as you are, and while you may not love me (and I 
 
 
One of my Facebook friends posted one of those inspirational motto thingies this morning, and one of the lines was about making changes not excuses.  The odd little idea popped into my head that what we need today is more people willing to excuse others.  I also thought maybe we need to learn to distinguish between excuses, reasons, and explanations better.  

As I often do, I went to the dictionary to make sure I wasn't imbuing the word "excuse" with some connotative subtlety it doesn't really mean.  The definitions I found online were  "attempt to lessen the blame attached to a fault or offense" and "a reason or explanation put forward to defend or justify a fault or offense,"  "to make apology for," "to forgive entirely or disregard as of trivial import," "to grant exemption from or release to," "to allow leave," and "to serve as an excuse for."  Among the synonyms were "pardon," " forgive," " justify,"  "absolve," " remit", and "condone."
 Merriam-Webster   - The Free Dictionary  

Ah, there it is!  "Forgive."  We excuse wounded veterans for not being able to get work. Or we give employers incentives to hire them, give them retraining.   I am not in disagreement with this.  Pretty much everyone else we tell "no excuses, get a job."  Yet many of them have legitimate reasons they are unable to obtain work: chronic debilitating diseases, mental handicaps, mental illnesses which interfere with the ability to perform up to corporate standards.  Some of these could indeed work, if certain modifications in expectations were made.  These things need no excuses from the persons with these reasons. We are blaming people for things over which they have no control.   Yet we often ask them to defend themselves for these conditions that result from chance, not choice. 

The changes required are changes in our social expectations.  We cannot expect a brain damaged person to work as fast, or learn as fast as persons with normal abilities.  We cannot expect someone with a debilitating chronic illness to put in as many hours, or show up every day.  

Some employers do make exceptions.  They are to be commended.  There just are not enough employers willing to take the time to fit these people into their structure.  

Another category of people are those who cannot obtain a job through decisions or judgments made by employers.   We can pretend that discrimination does not exist, yet the statistical evidence is that it does occur in hiring, promotions, and raises.  Is it any wonder that "liberal arts" have been disparaged?  The disparagement makes it easier for some of  us to live in denial.

It strikes me as odd that this is the case in what is also often referred to by those calling for "no excuses" as a "Christian nation."  Christ spoke often of forgiveness, charity, care for the poor.  How can someone with Christian values not possess the wilingness to excuse others for that which they cannot control?
 
 
There's this rather spooky thing that happens to me.  Maybe it happens to other people as well, but nobody has ever mentioned it to me.  I have an innovative idea, and almost as soon as I voice it to anyone, someone else comes along and does it.  When I was younger, I quickly stopped telling anyone about my ideas, thinking that the people I was telling them to were passing them on.  However, I quickly reached an age where the likelihood that the person implementing my ideas had any contact with the person I told was inversely proportional to the physical distance between the person implementing the idea and myself.   Moreover, the only person I say these things to now is my husband,, and I'm sure he isn't telling anyone.  Sometimes I'm not even sure he really listened, so how could he repeat what his brain never took in?

 Then I reflect on God moving in mysterious ways.  What's wrong with me now is physical.  I don't have the energy or physical strength to implement most of my ideas.  The latest idea I had, some months ago, concerned the "urban food deserts" in Houston. These are areas in which access to fresh produce is limited or non-existent.  Residents reliant on bus services to get about, particularly the disabled and elderly, are hard pressed to make the journey to the stores which offer good fresh produce.m  I said "What if some grocery store had a big truck that could roll up to a community center or  deserted strip center, drop its sides and offer fres\h produce?"  Now, while it's not a grocery store doing it (yet)  Houston's Recipe for Success, founded in 2005 by Grace and Bob Cavnar to provide nutrition education, fight childhood obesity, and encourage long term health has instituted exactly such a program and hopes to be serving up fresh produce by the end of the year.

Perhaps my speaking about my ideas, putting them into the Ether, or Cosmos, are directed by God to the hearts of those with the energy and strength to implement them?  Maybe it's a coincidence, but it has happened so often, that the statistician in me  has to wonder why coincidences with a small probability keep happening over and over.  Could it be that this is a form of prayer?  Perhaps many were trying to come up with a way to get good food to the people in these under-served areas, and my thought went into God's inbox, and God looked around and said "Gracie! Bob!  Listen up...here's your next task in the pursuit of your goal!"  I don't know, but I am thrilled that the idea is going forward and wish to support it every way I can.  They need money, kitchen items for their cooking classes.  They take donations but are also selling a cookbook aimed at kids with healthy recipes. along with T-Shirts, hats, and other items. They have a wish list, and I happen to have Bed Bath & Beyond coupons available that I won't use.  So if you are moved to give them a gift, contact me by the form on my coupons page or message me on FB.  I'll get them to you one way or another.

Fresh produce vans will roll into Houston's 'food deserts'By Allan Turner, Houston ChronicleUpdated 10:29 p.m., Sunday, February 5, 2012 (interestingly, this photograph was taken at the school my mother and brother went to,  although I think perhaps it's been remodelled or updated or even rebuilt since then.  My grandparents house is now gone; it would be about the middle of the southbound feeder for Hwy 288 at Wentworth.)

Thanks to Gracie and Bob for starting this service, to Allen Turner for writing about it, to Councilman Stephen Costello for championing solutions, and to H.E.B. for opening Joe V's in undererved areas
 
 
Most of us are suspicious and distrustful of people we meet on FB, with some well-founded reasons.  However, it is beyond me how, with all the extreme couponers around, I have been unable to interest anyone in the coupons I am willing to give away..  I have tried giving them to neighbors, to extreme couponing website operatiors, to FB friends.  So far as I know, nobody has responded.  Is it because I ask for a mailing address?  Is it because my form didn't work?  Nobody even wants to leave a record of visiting my website apparently.  Well, guess what?  If someone gives me their address and asks for some coupons, they're going to get those coupons (unless someone asked first & they were gone already.  I have literally 100s of coupons I will never use.  What am I asking in return?  Nothing. Oh sure, I'll accept Coveted Coupons off my list if they are sent to me.  And after all, my return address will be right on the envelope with the coupons I send out..  Is it required?  Nope.  Will I be more inclined to continue sending coupons to those who send something back? Sure, who wouldn't be?  However, I can probably offer all comers some of what they ask for.

I'm also thinking about this because I am dealing with a family member who has clearly developed an intense paranoia as part of a bipolar disorder.  This relative keeps complaining about not having any money, but all suggestions about saving money are seen as attempts to "control my life."  The latest manifestation is a belief that I and another cousin are "breaking into my house and going through my papers when I'm not home."  This is actually laughable, and dreadfully sad.  From my readings on this disorder, paranoia, delusions, hallucinations, and disordered thinking are part of the illness.  The reason I say this is laughable is that, to be blunt, neither of us has the time, nor the inclination, to figure out when she's not home (her hours are irregular), rush over to her house, commit a crime, and get out before either she returns or someone notices and calls the cops.  In short, we have our OWN lives to live, and plenty of activities to fill up the hours of those lives.   That's another characteristic of bipolar disorder apparently -- self-absorption to the point that one thinks everyone else's activities revolve around them.  That nobody has anything to do except pour their time down the drain marked "How to make life difficult for her." That, and the fact that with my SLE, the scenario she has imagined is literally impossible for me.  I don't move that fast, and if I ever did break into her house, I'd probably fall asleep on the floor before I could rifle through her papers!

Not that I don't have sympathy for her troubles.  I rather imagine that living with a constant belief that others are trying to control one, sabotage one, or make one miserable has to be hallacious.  I really cannot, and do not want to, put myself in those shoes.  Normal life, in which people, through their clumsniess, preoccupations, and dsitractions hurt each other's feelings and create problems, from minor to major ones, is bad enough.  To be completely honest, I have also encountered people with horrendous streaks of "I don't get mad, I get even."  Now that sounds clever, but in my experience the getting even from these people is usually magnified by several times over the original affront.  IF that affront is a misinterpretation of events and intents, you may be dealing with someone with emotional imbalances.

I maintain a general distrust myself of certain things.  If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.  My employers weren't interested in my well-being as much as in the bottom line, so I didn't trust them to protect me.  Politicians are more interested in serving their parties and their pocketbooks than serving the people, so I don't trust them to protect the people.  There'a a lot fo things I don't broadcast on FB to any and all.  (Sadly, I'm sure the government and most employers and any good hackers could find them out, and probably have).

We live in a society built on distrust.  Republicans and their voters distrust the motivations of the poor. We are told to be afraid of terrorists, hackers, sex offenders, yada yada yada.  Blacks mistrust whites, and while to some extent that is with good reason, it can also be carried to the extreme.  Hispanics distrust whites and, at least in some places, Blacks.  Then there's the distrust of Muslims, Jews, Mormons, Catholics, Baptists, and just about every religion in America, and "secularists,"  which many oddly seem to see as equivalent to "atheists."  It's not.  Remember when Jesus said "Render unto Caesar tjat which is Caesar's?"  Jesus was saying there are things of the Spirit, or God, and things of the world (Caesar) and each has their place.  If that wasn't a clear statement of the separation of church (Spirit) and state (Casear).  "Secular" simply refers to those things which are of the state:  schools, taxes, government, public roads, etc.

Isn't about time we learn to take some informed risks?  Or do we want to resort to becoming a nation where nobody trusts anybody and we are all paranoid?  It will certainly make the job of those who wish to control us easier if we all distrust each other.  Freedom is self-governance.