Kindness Equals Survival

Connie - Chicago, Illinois
Entered on November 2, 2008

“What the world needs now is love, sweet love, not just for some, but for everyone.”
– Burt Bacharach

I believe we must be kind to one another if we are to survive. I believe in hoping against hope when there seems to be no way out. I believe in history. I believe the Empire is falling.

Standing outside the church where I work two of my jobs, I watch a line of people that has formed at American Girl. This shuffling line wraps around the side and front of Water Tower Place. These people are not waiting for the Grand Opening. They are not waiting to buy the child-consumer marketed tool – personalized dolls that stare blankly out of strange, ethnically diverse rubber faces, at Michigan Avenue. These people are waiting and hoping for low-wage jobs.

I head back inside, past another line of people. These people are waiting to have their names checked off a list on a clipboard so they can receive a free brown bag lunch. Downstairs, in the church basement, I cover half a dozen, very old, thick-legged mahogany tables with plastic cloth. I lay out red, white and blue construction paper, pictures of Obama, pictures of McCain, pictures of flags and images of our country. I’ve cut out elephants and donkeys. Tonight kids from Cabrini and the south side will pour out of buses into our halls for tutoring. I’m the Arts Facilitator. Tonight while they are in my care, just before a corn dog dinner, we are making election posters.

One wall is cheerfully covered in our countries colors – a puffy, blue elephant made with markers and watercolors, a flag with a big heart in the middle of it, posters shouting, “Vote!” Most of the Xeroxed faces amidst the star and stripes are Obama’s. I’ve never seen children, of all ages, interested in a politician before. These kids love this man, Senator Barack Obama. One poster with Senator Obama’s face surrounded in stick-on gold stars has hands shooting skyward all around him and the words, “Help Us, Barack! Help Us!”

A few of the older kids grumbled about making the posters. They couldn’t vote in this election anyway, they complain. I replied that they could vote in the next election. Coby replied, “If we live that long.” He wasn’t being dramatic or ironic. This is what these kids worry about. This is why they act tough and act out. This is what they’re up against. I’ll say to you what I said to Coby, “I’m real sorry about that. That’s not the way it should be. This country has no excuse.” I moved along, “The donkey is the Democratic symbol. The elephant, Republican.”

I may be dismissed as “a bleeding heart liberal;” and so what if I am? I am the one sitting with a little girl who is sucking her thumb, a little girl who is too old to be sucking her thumb, and too young to have a scarred face, while she holds my earlobe between her tiny fingers, watching me cut out a blue donkey with a star on it’s belly for her to paste down. These are children and they are in harms way and millions of Americans seem to be okay with that; because it’s not their kid. I am not okay with that. I am not okay with the fact that they have everything stacked against them. I am not okay with their American Dream being to not get shot. I am not okay with good men and women doing nothing. I believe ethics and morality are critical components of Democracy. I believe I am my brother’s keeper.