So Sorry for Myself?

Would you welcome a stranger into your home if you discovered the stranger’s air conditioning had gone out? You might. You might not. How about if the person dealing with a dead AC unit was a family member. Probably. Possibly not. How would I deal with the news? I think I’d offer a bed and a place to relax in relative comfort. But I don’t know. I’d have to ask my wife first. And she might not feel quite as relaxed around strangers. Or family. Who knows?

The matter is on my mind this evening because our AC fan motor died earlier today. We discovered it fairly quickly after returning from an afternoon of errands in Hot Springs: my broken glasses were repaired; we found some shelves that might work on the blank kitchen wall; we’re now the owners of a planter and its matching saucer that will work, we hope, for my wife’s herb garden. And I now have an interesting insert for my big clay pot that will, I hope, allow me to use less soil to nurture the same number of plants.

My mention on Facebook of our issue, facing a night without air conditioning, didn’t generate a tidal wave of supplies from local folks, offering a place to lay our heads in cool comfort. If we need a place for the night, my wife’s sister offered a place. But that was pre-Facebook post. Perhaps no one locally saw my post. I wasn’t asking for a place to stay; I simply mentioned that we were without AC. But it occurs to me that I would, I hope, offer to give people a place to stay out of the heat. I don’t know, though. Maybe I wouldn’t. Maybe I’d think people I don’t know very well would consider me strange to offer them a cool bed. They might think I’m in training to be a sexual deviant or murderer. I understand. But, then again, I wonder if our attitudes that “we’re good people who want to help” are artificial, meant more to shore up our own consciences than to address real-world issues in front of us.

I hate being cynical. I hate distrusting people. I hate believing most people are not as willing to be helpful and good as they’d like us—we’d like us—to think. I know many people who are genuinely good, kind-hearted human beings who would give the shirts off their back to help a fellow human being in need. Or an animal. But I know too many others who would just as easily slit a throat if it meant an extra dollar in the bank. The thing is, how do we differentiate between them and protect ourselves, and people who matter, from them?

Still no offers of shelter for the night. Still no overtures from strangers. To say I’m disappointed wouldn’t be quite right. I didn’t expect a flood of offers. But I wished. I hoped. I wanted evidence that, even in the absence of a plea, empathy and compassion flow when even minor challenges face us. And I wonder if I, too, would be silent after reading a post that doesn’t look like a request for help, but might be one anyway, hidden beneath a veneer of pride.

The low tonight is expected to reach 69. In spite of high humidity, 69 degrees ought to be reasonably comfortable. We should be comfortable in our own bed tonight. If the AC is repaired tomorrow, all will be right with the world. If not, we could launch an unplanned road trip or stay with my wife’s sister. Or we could wonder where we live, who we live alongside, and whether we belong.

I tend to make much bigger “things” out of minor “things” than I should. I’m sorry. But I can’t change tonight. Maybe never. That’s a depressing thought, it is.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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