The scariest and most sublime attribute of my job is to know customers on a first-name basis. Forgive me. Where are my story manners? First, back story.
I snapped this picture while out at Trinity visiting Allison. I do not know who the artist is, but they struck a profound chord in me.
But I'm not so certain anymore.
Part of me wants to chalk this up to libertarian freedom, both social and spiritual. I didn't force these people to put down money on my counter to buy their artificially colored caramelized concoction.
But that doesn't cool me.
The other part of me does, in some twisted way, wonder if these people may deserve it. I mean, most are quick to point a finger in a junkie's face and say that fateful idiom, "this is your own damn fault." And they are right.
All of this is our fault.
But that doesn't cool me either.
So what is truly bothering me about knowing alcoholics on a first name basis? I think what it boils down to is the simple concept of suffering and indulgence. In some ways, I wonder if souls feel the need to seek and absorb conflict so they feel justified in indulgence. I do think some create suffering, or their own personal hells, just so they can seek absolution in the hooked end of a bottle.
At the same time, I have never felt so sorry for so many people before. Never had I wanted to ask a genuine stranger a question about himself, but I'm terrified. I'm absolutely terrified of asking a stranger about their problems, because I don't know if I'm strong enough to hear their answer.
I mean, pass by someone in the market and say hello and ask them how they are doing. 95% of them will either ignore you, or say hello and move on down the cereal aisle. I've rarely had someone turn, answer in the affirmative and then ask me how I'm doing. Those that did turned out to be some pretty great people. One of them I plan on marrying someday.
Allow me a personal example. A regular came in to buy his usual bottles. I paused, addressed him by his first name and asked him how he was doing. He grunted and tried to pay. I asked him again. He said he was tired. I asked him why. He looked up at me, jaw set, sweating like it was a furnace in the 70 degree store.
Then the damnedest thing happened. He answered. He told me that he had spent the weekend setting up this romantic juncture for his wife involving rose petals, lotion and a three hour long wallop session. I'll spare you the grisly details because they aren't important, and thank Jesus I've forgotten half of them.
But what really struck me was that he clearly loved his wife, and yet was here buying more. Like nothing changed. Like the romantic gesture was foreplay to this. I imagined him being alone without her, and where he life could've been. I watched him walk all the way to his car and drive away.
The libertarian streak tried to cajole me into ignoring it. I couldn't. The rest of me pleaded, saying he deserved it and brought it upon himself. I agreed. But agreeing with something doesn't make the empathy go away.
Something tells me that the One who transcends and offers so much for so little isn't interested in dethroning empathy, a most remarkable trait.
So who do we blame? We love to blame those in silver towers for the injustices done to those in other parts of the world. We love to blame leaders who are secretly fighting other leaders for not being good leaders. We love to blame addicts for being addicts, and lobbyists for being lobbyists. We love to blame everyone for everything that happens to everyone.
What do we do with people are drinking their way into destruction, who lie, who hate, who blaspheme, who are damned?
We can't throw them away, they are already in the waste basket.
And it doesn't take too much speculation to know Who is in there with them.