Happy birthday, of course, to a country that I love in the same manner I would love a child who grew up to disappoint me in every possible way. I was pleasantly surprised that nobody at church today bore their testimony about how this country is, all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding, the greatest in the world and the most favored by God. Only one out of eleven people even talked about it, and then only to say that despite its recent ups and downs he's grateful for it and the freedoms he has. I have no objection to that. I'm grateful too. I have to live somewhere, and this is where I live for the time being, and though I hope to do better when I get a chance, I could certainly do worse. In the meantime it's my patriotic duty to improve things by complaining about them.
On Thursday, some kids asked me to get their Frisbee out of the road. I was very happy to do so. In that moment, I felt like I mattered. With the exception of a few guys in Africa who need money sometimes, people don't often ask me for help or admit that they need it if I broach the subject. They ask their actual friends or they just withdraw into themselves. These kids just straight-up asked me and it was great. They gave me the opportunity to performed a service that enrich their lives and, in so doing, enriched mine as well.
On Friday, I saw some kids selling popsicles, but I had no cash on me. I continued on my way and later picked up some cash and returned, but they were gone, the bare table on the sidewalk the only evidence that they'd ever been. I felt guilty about it for hours. What if nobody had bought any popsicles? What if they cried themselves to sleep that night because nobody wanted what they had to offer? They would have to be exposed to the cruelty and apathy and disappointment of life eventually, of course, but not so soon, not so young. I had failed them and negated my earlier good deed.
On Saturday, I went to a potluck that I saw advertised via some flyers on campus. When I RSVP'd via the QR code the night before, I noticed that the hostess was the only one listed on the spreadsheet as bringing anything, and that nearly a month ago, and when I showed up and she asked "Are you Christopher?" I all but confirmed that nobody else was coming. Indeed, nobody else came. I stayed the whole three hours because I felt so bad for her. At one point her roommate emerged from the house, and at another point her neighbor came home, and she offered them food and they thanked her and didn't take any food or join her for even a moment. A while later they both got into the neighbor's car and went somewhere together, and I silently prayed for them to crash and die horrible fiery deaths.
I felt guilty for hours again. My presence had surely not been enough to assuage the pain of such a disappointing turnout after all the work and preparation she put into what was supposed to be a good time. I should have talked more, asked her more questions about herself even though it was so awkward for me to be alone with someone I just met for three hours. I should have tried to get her contact information so our friendship could continue and I would have further opportunities to enrich her life and retroactively make meeting me worth it. But I can't do that anymore. So I felt that my effort wasn't nearly enough and I hated myself for that, but hey, at least I can pick up a Frisbee.
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About the Author
C. Randall Nicholson is a white cisgender male and a Latter-day Saint, so you can hate him without guilt, but he's also autistic, so you can't. Unless you're an anti-vaxxer, in which case the feeling is mutual. This blog is where he periodically rants about life, the universe, and/or everything.