Often, when my unemployed state threatens my spirit, I bake bread. Enormous swelling mounds of sourdough or pumpernickel. The yeast, the texture, the molasses remind me that wealth depends on the right ingredients, a practiced touch and a will to create something good. At least, that’s the hope.
Yesterday — a damp, gray day — as I wrestled with 15 cups of white flour, 6 cups of wheat and 10 cups of rye, an elderly man knocked on my door.
“Do you own a German Short Hair?” he asked.
“Excuse me?” I replied, wiping flour down the front of my pants and sweater. “A what?”
“A German Short Hair,” he answered. “The Town received a complaint about a German Short Hair dog running loose at this address.”
He leaned a bit heavily against the door frame and when I opened the door wide, he favored his knees crossing the threshold. After too short a visit, he realized he’d been given wrong information and turned stiffly, prepared to visit the rest of the houses in the neighborhood.
“I don’t envy you your job,” I apologized. No matter my own state of affairs, it was an honest statement.
“It’s the bottom of the pits,” he nodded. “I’m 75 years old. My wife and sister are home with Alzheimer’s. I take care of them and this is how I stretch my monthly check. You play the cards you’re dealt, right? What else is there to do?”
As I watched him pick his way through the snow — on to the next house — my own knees gave out and I crouched there on the back stoop, overwhelmed by hatred and impotent fury.
How many more groups can we join on Facebook that demand Congress give up its health care?
How many more petitions can we sign demanding a legitimate jobs bill for America’s workers?
How many more of our families must supplement their meals with dog food?
How many more of our children must graduate high school as functional illiterates?
How many more years must we spend more to incarcerate our youth than to educate them?
How much more will America’s workers swallow before we call a national strike?
How many more corporate bailouts will we suffer before we pitch our tents and outrage on the National Mall?
More frequently than I like to admit, I’m struck dumb and inert by the evil that steals through the halls of Congress. By leaders who toss pennies to the working poor and billions to their cronies in crime.
I don’t know what to do. I and countless others send out resumes day after day. We circle and circle possible jobs in the paper. We scroll through endless job search engines.
Each morning we swallow the mounting sense of hopelessness and smile unconvincingly at our children. They’ve never been through this before. They take their cues from us.
Tomorrow, I’ll get back to work with Mary and Bernie Handler, Bruce Ferguson and Victoria Lesser as we prepare for Mayor Tillman’s visit to Callicoon this Saturday.
Tomorrow, I’ll be grateful for the water we’re delivering to Dimock, Pennsylvania.
Tomorrow, I’ll work to rid myself of futile rage.
Tonight, I’ll curl in on myself, grieving for a nation that’s lost its way; that cares little for its elders, its youth and its workers.