Thanksgiving 2012 is behind us. All of us in our own way have had a lot to reflect on and be thankful for. We have had a election that has settled up a lot of questions for at least the next two years. But, as the negotiations begin to avert the so-called “fiscal cliff”, the question in my mind is whether what Richard Wolffe recently referred to as a “soft austerity” will continue to be the policy of the United States.
I spent thanksgiving eve attending an inter-faith service at the Shepherd of the Hills Church in Mission Viejo. Shepherd of the Hills Church is a beautiful campus that reflects a sense of faith and hope that is needed ever more. Rev. Brown, Rabbi Levi and the Imam of the Orange County Islamic Foundation spoke about the need to be thankful and appreciative for all that we have been given and are blessed with. As thanksgiving prayers of all the three monotheistic traditions were The Imam of the Orange County Islamic Foundation reflected upon the need to stop being fascinated about “Things” and reflect upon what one does not have–but what one does. He asked a very interesting question of the audience of Christians, Jews and Muslims: How many were College Educated? He cited a startling statistic about the number of people around the World actually have a college degree: 2 percent. He reminded us all about the need to be happy, appreciative and understanding.
As we have all celebrated what we’re thankful for, the challenges before us are ever more. I was shocked at the heatwaves we experienced in South County. The red flag alerts issued was of concern. The images that stuck with me , though, was the image of the One-Legged Man who manned one of those street corners on one of those hots days as the election. I happened to be driving up Alicia Parkway when I noticed him holding up a sign about asking for help. I decided to work up the courage to walk up to him to talk to him after picking up a Togo’s Gift Card.
His story was quite compelling. He was a construction superintendent for a major local developer and led the good life. He had a six figure income until he had a near death experience due to a blood cloth. He apparently was in a coma for quite some time. He ended up losing his leg and could not work anymore. He lost his house and his wife ended up living with his in-laws. There were rays of hope, though. His son was continuing onward with his education and he was apparently due to receive an artificial leg to help get back on his feet. As I walked away from him, I was simply amazed by his optimism. I did not want to dwell any further beyond the conversation I had already had with him. The election was about such men who still wanted to have a chance to live and rebuild their lives. I could not believe my eyes when I saw one of those many souls on Street Corners who was on the street at 9:00 PM at night trying to do what he could to survive.
As I continued onward with the conversations with all the “voices”, the one that stuck with me was one man who had a catering business and whose wife also worked full time. The economy had impacted his business immensely. But, he reflected upon how he had spent an estimated Fifty Thousand Dollars over a 4 year period for his two children on childcare. He reflected upon the fact that it was the equivalent of a down-payment of a house. Both he and his wife worked full time–yet they somehow managed to be at their children’s games and be as involved as they could be. The election was about such persons that do try and work hard, play by the roles and want a fighting chance to survive and thrive.
Beyond the daily trials and tribulations of our communities, there is the wider World. It is a World that continues to be ever more militarized, polluted and polarized ever more. I can’t help but wonder whether President Obama will ” go big and bold” in order to be the true transformational figure. Only time will tell.