Voices From Street Corners (VOL 21): Never Losing Hope

Summer has arrived here in our beautiful neighborhood. Although June Gloom did not disappoint, we have also been blessed with reasonably great weather as others throughout the country have had to deal with record heat, fires and floods. The scenes from Arizona, New Mexico and the banks of the Mississippi should give us all a moment of pause. The current boom state of North Dakota seems to be the latest victim of the viciousness of our weather these days.

As I was in town, I continued to be witness to the “sign people” occupying the corners. I had not seen some of the “old timers” like Old Wes and others. I wondered what had happened to him — he probably went out to the Philippines to check on the orphan kid, perhaps. ?! :-). But, I did see the young man who continued to occupy the familiar corner periodically as the new Laguna Niguel City Hall continued to take shape in time for its opening in September with his ever fading “NEED WORK” sign . I was kind of surprised to see one of the regulars changing where she was though. She had moved further South and occupied a corner right across from the Car Wash in Town. I had seriously hoped that both would at least take up and take advantage of some of the ideas I had shaerd with them. I wonder, though.

As I saw the folks on street corners trying to survive, I also saw reasons for hope. The Community Spirit was ever so evident when I had the good fortune to attend the City of Laguna Niguel’s Annual Volunteer Appreciation Dinner. When I heard about the level of involvement the 2010 Citizen of the Year had , I was blown away. As someone who understands and believes in service, I was frankly jealous but quite proud to be living in such a community that fosters such spirit of commitment and compassion. I was even more blown away when I happened to be at the local Pizza Hut one late night with friends. A lady talked about how she opened up her homes to Marines who came back from Afghanistan and Iraq and how she hosted them for weeks on end as they adjusted to life back home. She talked about how they slept on the floor and what they actually did. She was just amazed as to how really young they were. As she told her story while waiting for her tire to be changed, all I could simply do was to say thank you for your service. What can one say to such a person who takes the time to drive out to Camp Pendleton, seek out the Marines and give them shelter and be there for them?

My journey around town also took me to my nephew’s graduation at Aliso Niguel High School. As I saw the hundreds of graduates stream past me and saw all the proud family members (including my own) marvel at the success, I again realized how such grassroots efforts make a difference. It was a sense of local spirit and sheer will and commitment that saw Aliso Niguel graduate one of its top classes this year with quite a few students graduating as valedictorians and the Scholar of Scholars attaining a 4.6 GPA. I also saw a sense of dedication as I happened to be at my Son’s School, Moulton. The dedication and commitment of the Mothers who helped organize all the Year-End Parties were just amazing. It was just a joy to see the Mothers organize the games, arrange for the lunches and be there. Despite all that the schools seem to have been through, it was still such a sight to see. To me, the icing on the cake was when RMIQ, the Moulton Foundation started by a few Moulton Parents was able to raise over 33,000 to help fund instructional Aid for the upcoming school year.

As I look forward to summer and of course Fall, I sense some dark clouds ahead. But, I know that the Community will come together and rally to navigate through the expected minefields. My mind, thuogh, drifted yet again to Washington and Sacramento though. I continue to be amazed as to how our fearless leaders in Washington seem to be so disconnected from what we try to accomplish in Main Street. Those of us who have been through tough times understand that we have to live within our means. But, does that mean that we forget the average person on Main Street who is trying to insure equal educational opportunity for their children so that they can have a fighting chance? Does that mean that programs for the needy have to be on the chopping block while the top 12 corporations in the Country paid no taxes at all–and yet they want to extend more tax cuts in the name of “instilling confidence? What happened to a sense of togetherness that is vital if this experiment that is America is to endure?

I count my blessings everyday despite the continued challenges and worries that I continue to have. I see the people in action here and now and truly remain optimistic. Leaders have to lead and have to make sure that they live up to what they believe in. The Monday Edition of the LA Times had a front page story of how Obama has turned to his instincts. I am glad to see that. But, the problem is not just the President–but also the Speaker, the Majority Leader of the House and the Minority Leader in the Senate. I can’t really understand the Republicans in Washington seem not to understand that Governing is about choosing, about compromising, about deciding and realizing that the long-term interests of the American People has to be protected without destroying the essential fabrics of this Country. I read about the 10th’ers and the Constitiutionalists. Yet, they seem to have not truly realized the essentials on which this country was built–a Union that is indestructible based on indestructible States.

As I thought about the current state of our National and State Leadership, I thought this clip from the film El Cid:

Despite all that the Cid had to put up with, he never lost his loyalty. He always fought for Spain. It is striking to see how the Moor King expressed how noble a subject he was–if only he had a noble king. We Americans are truly noble, caring, considerate and kind. If only we had noble leaders who understood their true mission, forgot who bankrolled them and truly lived up to being noble and courageous enough to do the nation’s business and not be hostage to dogmatic views. I wonder if they ever understood that as Baltasar Gracian said, “…The sole advantage of power is that you can do more good…”. I wonder if they truly understand what “doing good” means.

As I look to the second half of the year, I wonder if I continue to expect too much. I remain hopeful–because I see no other alternative.