Monday, January 17, 2011

Just Beyond the Gate

We live in the extreme Northwest area of Las Vegas, far from the casinos and traffic and the seedier city-elements like nightclubs, ladies of the evening, and homeless people. So I was surprised this week when George and I drove to the dog park, and we passed a homeless woman standing on the sidewalk a couple of blocks from our house.

I couldn’t see her face. She was dressed in layered crumpled clothing – baggy coat and stocking cap. Her left hand held the edge of her grocery cart that was filled to overflowing. She stood still, looking into a gated community of houses. The palm trees lining the entrance swayed around her, and through the gate she could see the rows of two-story houses and a little grassy play area and picnic table. She never moved as I drove by – just stood holding her shopping cart, looking.

Immediately the Starbucks-Venti-light-ice-Chai-tea-latte in my hand felt shameful. Gluttonous. Overindulgent.

As we drove on to the dog park with George hanging out the car window in the wind, I wondered what that woman thought as she looked at that little all-American community. Did she hate the people inside? Did she dream of living in a place like that one day? Did she feel cheated? Cheapened? Hopeful?

Of course having a moment like that makes me focus on priorities, and thankful for what I have, and all those other cliché feelings we’re supposed to have when faced with the overwhelming problems of others.

But it also made me angry. I work in an area of Las Vegas that is wealthy, and every day I’m around privileged people with an overwhelming sense of entitlement. And every day the majority of Americans watch “reality” shows on their big screen TVs and increasingly believe they have a God-given right to be loud and arrogant and spend all their money on things that just don’t matter. How many people nowadays truly know what Priorities are?

Just think what could be done to help the world, if everyone bought only what they needed, and everyone lived within their means. Just like that woman gazing through the gate at the pretty life just beyond her grasp, I can dream, too.

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