Thursday, September 24, 2009

Two situations....

i know. Its been months.....Ive been stewing on some things, I'll give an update soon but first this has been all up in my head the past few days and I've got to put it down here.

My car is old and sad. Last week, it kept dying. It would start the first time in the morning but if I stopped anywhere shortly after starting it up (i.e. to get a donut, to get gas, to run into Sunshine..etc) it would not restart as the battery was not charged or some craziness. It had to sit for awhile between startings... So sometimes I forgot and would stop places and shut the car off and then OHHH SARAH! Really? Yep. Thats the background you need for this story.....and I always have jumper cables.

I left home (currently the South side, Woodlawn neighborhood) and drove to get on the expressway to go to my grandmas house. There is a gas station in Englewood right next to the entrance to the expressway. I had to stop to put air in my tire and shut my car off without thinking. It would not start back up, I needed a jump. I put my hood up and within seconds a man approached me. Do you need help? "Yes, I need a jump, I have my own cables, " I said nervously. I hate HATE hate asking for help, I know its a weakness but having people help still me makes me uncomfortable. A woman at the gas station overheard me tell him I needed a jump and she asked if I was ok. I said yes thanks. The gas station owner recognized me as I stop there often and came out to see if I was cool. The man took my cables and hooked up our batteries but still my car would not start. He kept tinkering with my car and the cables but my car would not turn over. He pulled out his phone and called someone, "Im sorry man, Im gonna be a little late today." IT WAS HIS WORK! I told him it was fine, go ahead, Ill figure it out, etc but he just kept adjusting the cables and told me to try to start it again. Finally, he pinched some cable thingy and it started. He told me what exactly I should get fixed and then sent me on my way. I was so thankful, I had tears in my eyes. He drove away and waved. The gas station guy came out and double checked on me again. I drove away feeling blessed.

I went to my grandmothers house on the far North side of the city. In the morning I went to get some soup from a bakery in a strip mall in Skokie. Guess what? My car wouldnt start. I was so sick and I couldnt imagine having to deal with this right now. I got my cables out and put my hood up. This was a busy outdoor shopping mall, it was Saturday, a beautiful day...I thought my chances were pretty good of getting some assistance. Two women walked over who were parked directly next to my car. I sighed with relief, their car was right next to me! I greeted them and pointed to my car and said it was dead and I needed a jump. I had my own cables and could they help me? The woman looked at me and my car, and said "I dont Do that, honey." As she actually brushed past me, I stammered that it would take like 30 seconds, I was very fast and she could sit in the car. She and her friend got in and drove away. I asked a man that was parked close, he did not even stop walking but instead mumbled that he was in a hurry. I asked another lady, a man and woman, a guy...NO,not today,you should call Triple A, Im in a hurry, I can't. Ok I started crying.....I felt so sick, I had a fever, What was I going to do? All these shiny cars, a patio of people drinking coffee about fifteen feet away, and no one was able to let me jump my car. I asked one more lady and she FLAT out ignored me. Then, a rusted old van lumbered past me. I just watched it go. It circled the parking lot and drove past slowly. I was standing there with jumper cables around my shoulders. They stopped and both climbed out the passenger side door. They did not speak very good English but gestured to my car and said "Help?" I nodded and they pulled as close to my car as they could but my cables wouldnt reach. They had some cables and they rigged it up and jumped my car. I was so touched.

So heres the thing....
In the first situation, I was in a poor neighborhood. Older cars, people in hard up situations. Not everyone has a car, most people, I would venture to say, use public transportation. People were stopping in getting gas and then on their way.
In the second situation, I was in a very wealthy area. The cars in this parking lot were nice, shiny, mostly brand new or a few years old. They people were dressed nicely and were either frequenting the coffee shop, bookstore, bakery, party store or sandwich shop--- so leisure activities on a Saturday morning.

Why was it that no one in the second situation could help me? Race/Ethnicity was not a factor here. As a sociologist, I thought about the variables and constant factors. African American/Black and Hispanic was represented in both situations. The persons of an ethnic minority were no more willing to help in the second situation. So race/ethnicity was a constant. The people that did help in second situation were of either polish or russian decent so visibly white, but minority nonetheless. The only variable was economic class affiliation.

I was trying to grasp this...I went in academic/sociological circles with this unplanned foray into culture of help based on class affiliation. I came to the conclusion that perhaps people of a lower economic/poor background could empathize/understand with my problem and my situation because they have been there....stranded, no help. So for you all reading this who dont know what I just said,,,,People who have little or no money UNDERSTOOD what it was like to need help of someone else to get by. They were able to empathize as perhaps they have been stuck in some way. People who had money to spare, could not empathize with me so did not care. If something breaks and you have the money, its no big deal. A man in situation 2 told me to call Triple A for a jump. Yeah, because I can afford that.

In my Health Disparities class, we are discussing how being low income contributes to a constant level of stress because you know if something breaks, goes wrong, get do not have the resources to remedy it. So, knowing that reality in your own life you perhaps are more willing to lend a hand to someone else? I mean I have always thought that, but here is an experiment to back up my hypothesis.

So on to the biblical application and lessons learned....There is a verse that says it is harder for a rich man to get into heaven than it is for a camel to walk through the eye of a needle. So many interpretations of that verse....I have heard it used to justify a prejudice against the wealthy, I have heard it used as a reason people should give more/everything to the church, etc but I saw a whole new light to this verse after this situation. Perhaps, money makes a buffer, creates a division...I mean money gives you this security that in this situation, did not allow people to understand or come to my level and help. Money makes you feel independent and infallible, it empowers you and lessens your need. Money can make you proud. All these things are roadblocks on the way to deep relations with God, our Father, and Jesus Christ, our savior and God's son. Perhaps, Jesus was not condemning the rich for being rich but warning against the ability of money to harden our hearts and separate us from others and Himself. Im no preacher or superior exegetical bible scholar (im a woman after all...ITS FUNNY CMON)but i just felt God teaching me something with all this. This was a long post. Its nice to be back.


Sarah said...

Jesus looked at him and said, "How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."

Luke 18:24

Simon said...

Like your most recent post, this totally illustrates how some people are lame and some are really nice.

I'd like to add another explanation. I find that people with money are hopeless when it comes to understanding very basic things. People with less money need to understand how things work so they can care for them rather than just pay money to replace them. To wealthy people, jump-starting a car is not something they want to get involved with because they don't understand it and might actually fear it (in case they might scratch their shiny cars). It's not an excuse for them, just a reason why they are acting like that.

I'm generalising here, I'm not saying that all wealthy people would act like this.

Anyway, sorry to hear you're having problems. I'd totally help you out with your car.