Sunday, May 6, 2012

sparkly, spangled shoes

Not six or eight feet from the peace picket line yesterday, a stunningly-beautiful young girl of perhaps three lost one of her spangled and sparkly shoes. She stopped dead in her tracks and seemed prepared to cry. Her father, who was holding her hand as they walked up Main Street, felt her distress before he knew what the distress was. In a nanosecond, he stopped looked down, saw what the problem was, hunkered down, hoisted the small, blond angel onto a knee, crooned a reassurance, refitted the shoe, hoisted her into the crook of his right arm, stood up, and continued walking. The beautiful young girl of perhaps three was beaming over her father's shoulder as they continued up the street.

Sparkly, spangled shoes are such a treasure, so vastly and completely important. Which of us has not wept or almost wept when those sparkly, spangled shoes became dislodged?

Later in the day, a note from a friend in Vienna said that the writer wanted to do some good in the world -- perhaps in the field of Zen Buddhism -- but was not entirely sure of how to proceed. Where were the handholds that would allow her to pursue such a wish ... such a pair of sparkly, spangled shoes? Ineptly, but honestly, I replied, "Be yourself." Is there a more laudable desire than the desire to do good in the world? I would say there is: Set aside the notion of doing good and the barbed wire that tangles and ensnares the well-intentioned passerby will turn to smiles.

Saying things like that to someone who wants to do good is like pissing into the wind, but at my age, I am accustomed to wearing spangled and sparkly shoes that are soggy.

Back on the peace picket line, I was standing next to Bill, a former city councilor who is pleasant and taciturn and probably in his 70's. Jack, a shoe-store owner and good-natured enthusiast of the political right, stopped by to say hi to Bill. "I didn't come to bust your chops," he said by way of creating a conversational opening. "Be careful," I interrupted, speaking to Bill, "he just wants you to lower your guard." We all chuckled a bit and pretty soon we were hip-deep in an organ recital that is common among those of a certain age. Jack at 80 had prostate problems bad enough so that he couldn't take a piss. He was planning to have an operation that would allow him to escape the hell that is not on the radar screen of those who can piss without complaint. And we all began sharing our prostate problems -- the medicines that had damning side-effects, the doctors whose healing hands could diminish and demean the life of those whose lives they attempted to extend, the treatments and results and torments in between. It was pleasant not to be alone, to feel that others had felt the same feelings that can leave anyone flummoxed and lonely and railing at the stars.

And by the time we stopped talking, our sparkly, spangled shoes had regained some of their treasured luster. We too could smile the smile of a beautiful girl of 3. We had managed to do some good, I guess, though I'll be damned if I can say what good we did.

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