So You Made a Little Money

Last night coming out of Tai Chi class, a lady asked if she could walk to the parking lot with someone. Since Leslie and I had parked in the same lot, we gladly accompanied her.

Originally,we were going to take the shortest route, through the alley and around the corner, less than a fourth of a block. Just as we started down the alley, though, I spotted a man in the shadows who appeared to emerge from a pile of garbage sacks.

I suggested we go back and go the long way rather than through the dark alley, discretion increasingly seeming the better choice as I get older and wiser, not to mention weaker.

Strangely, I felt a little ashamed about turning around and avoiding the man. I made an instant judgment about him based on very little. It seemed obvious he was spending the night sleeping on, and under, garbage sacks on the coldest night of the year. How could you help but feel sympathy for his situation? I’m not even sure if I would have blamed him if he had robbed someone to get money to spend the night inside, though I had no desire to be his victim.

Increasingly this Christmas I find myself listening to Tracy Chapman’s songs, particularly,


So you made a little money
Off of somebody else’s sweat
So some people starve a little
While you get fat
While you get fat

So you grind and grind
And you push and shove
Claim that those most worthy
Get what they deserve
What they deserve

Can’t be true
Can’t be true
’cause I’ve seen too many hungry faces
I’ve seen too many with the likes of you
Can’t be true

For you everything has it’s price
You give nothing away for free
If silence were truly golden
I guess no one could sleep
No one could sleep

You have money at your fingertips
People at your beck and call
And you’re fool enough
To think for a price
You can have the whole wide world

For all our sakes
And all our lives
We must hope the words
That come from your lips
We must hope those words are lies

For all our sakes
All our lives
We must hope the dreams
Soulless visions that you have
Are never realized

You’ve got a big house
And you drive a fancy car
So what if your pockets are full
If you have an empty heart

You snap your fingers
And all the waters part
So what if the people bow down
If they show you no regard

Your left hand
Always watches your right
So what if you trust in God
If you can’t sleep at night

You think you’ve made it
You think you’ve got what everyone wants
So what if you’re a big fat man
With an empty little heart

Who has made a little money
Off of somebody else’s sweat
Watching people starve
While you got fat
While you got fat
You got fat
You got fat

as much as I do listening to more traditional songs by Bing Crosby or Gene Autry, wondering how much meaning Christmas still has for me.

On the good side, the incident reminded me I haven’t seen any Salvation Army bell ringers at Safeway this year. Perhaps they were banned like they were at Target. After all, we wouldn’t want people’s Christmas mood spoiled by being reminded of the poor, would we?

I’ll have to send a check off in the mail since it was my mother’s favorite charity, though personally I’ve always found their religious overtones less than appealing.

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