Monday, March 22, 2010


Easter is coming up, and that means the crosses are out again at the nearby church. This is an annual ritual, enacted every spring. The rest of the time, the sports field is, well, a sports field, used for soccer, baseball, football, et cetera.

Once upon a time, I was a part of my employer's charitable giving committee. We had an annual budget, about 90% of which was spoken for. The rest of it we opened up to the employees - they could submit charitable causes, make their case, and then we'd select which ones received a piece of the pie. It was interesting, and rewarding, but it had an interesting and unintended consequence. When you asked people about the giving committee, no one really seemed to understand that the moneys that we disbursed to the employee-selected causes were just a small fraction of the overall budget. In the eyes of just about everyone in the company - including those who should have known better, it was all we did. But such is the reality of things - we are not known for who we are, or what we have done - we are known for the actions that people attribute to us. If you fell a tree in the forest, and no one is there to see it, it doesn't cast a shadow on your reputation.

Okay, segue done. So walking past this church, and their annual Cemetery of the Innocents, I understand where people get the idea that all a certain segment of the religious class cares about is abortion. While I realize that this church likely has dozens of causes that are important to them, despite the fact that I live within walking distance, this is the only thing that I ever see them publicly advocate for.

Which brings us to this man. I don't know his name, or where he's from. I don't know where he spends his nights, or how he makes ends meet. All I do know about him is that he was once a productive member of the workforce - an orchard worker in Eastern Washington. But now he's suffering from Hepatitis C, and can't continue working. On top of it all, he also has a tumor growing inside of him. And, given the fact that he's panhandling at the end of an expressway off-ramp, he clearly lacks the funds to pay for treatment. No family, no significant other; all he has is himself, and his cat. He's resigned to dying - he's simply waiting for the end.

And so, when I saw the crosses, my first thought was: Where's HIS marker? Who's making note of the fact that disease will still HIS beating heart? Is he not innocent enough to have someone make a public marker of his passing? Now I know, that given the choice, the church members who so carefully laid and out and placed the field of crosses wouldn't abandon this man lightly. But it seems that he, and the thousands of others like him, don't appear on their radar screens. That he doesn't rise to the level of being worthy of note. That they won't even know he existed, let alone memorialize him.

But I guess that's MY job, isn't it? I'm afraid that I can't offer hundreds of crosses. So a single candle will have to do. And, really, I understand that few people are likely to see it. But it helps to understand that a man will not die forgotten, even if no-one sees that I remember.

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