An embarrassment of riches?

Given the dramatic and difficult circumstances of this past week here in San Diego, you might think that an odd subject title. One of the local news anchors used that phrase when she was reporting that the evacuation sites were no longer needing or accepting donations. "We have an embarrassment of riches so to speak..." It was her way of acknowledging the good news that this community rallied in such a swift and generous manner that there was enough food, sundries, supplies, etc. to support the evacuees at Qualcomm and the like.

That phrase has been haunting me --appropriate for pre-Halloween-- as it was applied to a situation where people probably felt anything but rich (except perhaps in Spirit) and for some people, perhaps they had lost all their "riches" in their hearth and home that fell prey to the fires.

My further pondering was about the fact that there is such bounty and plenty in the city, in the nation,in the world, why is that we have such a problem with homelessness and hunger? Why is there not a way to share the wealth? I listened to countless stories and reports about families coming forward without hesitation to provide food, supplies, shelter or whatever was needed to support other people (who on a different week, might have easily been referred to as "strangers"). Ah, my heart expands in that the human spirit is alive and well. It just makes me ponder as to why it seems to emerge in such powerful ways only when called forth by dire circumstances?

Clearly, there are always people and organizations out in the community or in the world that are doing good deeds on a daily basis. Whatever else would all those telethons and pledge drives be about? Organizations quite often seek volunteers to help support and sustain. And yet, when something catastrophic takes place the "embarrassment of riches" comes forth in the manner of goods, person-power and donations. I ponder if that isn't possible more regularly and without such motivation.

Yet, maybe that is the way it needs to be. There is that rule in organizations, I believe that 20% of the people do 80% of the work. And perhaps that is the natural order of things. That way, when there is a specific need or call to action, the remaining 80% get to jump in and do their part. It is a way of balancing the load.
I doubt if everyone of us could do all that needs to be done for each other on a daily basis and still take care of our own with full attention and care. I liken it to the fact that nature finds it's own version of the 80/20 ratio when it needs to burn off the land for regrowth. Nature doesn't seem to have little spurts of fires on a daily or weekly basis; it appears as if nature accumulates stuff (as do we) and then when it gets to be too much or time for transformation, nature responds in a grand manner.

The small amount to which I was able to actively (hands-on) support at first, frustrated me. As I wrote earlier, Don and I threw together a bunch of supplies and took to Qualcomm the first afternoon. The next day, I went out and bought toiletries and sundries that I thought would be useful to add to further donations and it was declined. My registering on Volunteer San Diego showed me that all the positions were filled for now but to check back later. It became clear for me that I was meant to do more inner work. I would continue to support certain individuals and also cast a wider net of prayer. For others, this was their time to be on the front lines in service.

As I continue along this Ponderosa of mine, I am not judging any of this. In fact, I am not even weighing in on one side or the other. Merely, I am looking at the bigger picture by turning it upside down or on it's side to see if I can see things differently. Even this morning when I took my meditation walk (which this week, I have been unable to do because of the air quality) and stood on the mountain top where I have a perfect view of Qualcomm Stadium. I was pleased to see how calm and how empty it was today. A sign that people were able to move on from there into rebuilding their homes and their lives.

The next few weeks will be almost as critical. Not in the life-threatening sense, but in the post-traumatic phase when the active support begins to wane. This is the time where you/me/we can do some deep support for those who have been impacted by the fires; and for those who served so long and hard in protecting us. This phase is much like what happens after a death in the family. There is an immediate outpouring of love, attention, and support and then when the initial crisis is over the outside circle begins to fade--rightly so. People who have experienced a trauma, a major loss or transition in their lives do need to learn to move on and function independently. AND... and it is a big AND, we need to keep our antennae out to touch bases and connect with them along the way. If you have friends or family who were jeopardized or had major losses from this fire, please look to finding a way to connect with them as time goes on. Even if it means putting a reminder on your calendar to give a call and check in with folk.

How we as a community, we as individuals, move through and beyond a major event such as these wildfires, really sets the tone for how we are to live our lives on the world stage; how we expect and want our leaders, neighbors and friends to show up in the world. Gandhi was right, we must be the change we want to see in the world. And with having been given a new page upon which to write and draw the world we want to live in, this is a great opportunity for you to join me on the Ponderosa and contemplate the riches for which can be in abundance for all.


Jo Blaine said…
Well, here's the embarrassing part. I saw it mentioned in passing deep with an inner-section article in the Tribune. They were making people who lined up for the riches show proof that they were from an evacuation area, and some had no ID or weren't evacuees and were turned away. I had been musing aloud about whether the everyday homeless and other people who were feeling the need would be fed and clothed as well since there was obviously plenty to go around. What was being demostrated there? Fear of helping someone who doesn't really need it? And who should say who needs it besides the person lining up for it?

So, yeah, we'll all give and give like crazy giving banshees when we all agree that the need is tragic and obvious and justified. We love big dramatic natural disasters or war... it's all so clear then! But the vaguaries of everyday human suffering apparently don't qualify as a need that should be met by the community.
ellie said…
It seems to me that the concept of "share the riches" implies that there is only so much to go around. I think that wealth of all sorts can be created and I'd prefer to give people the tools to become rich, or whatever else they would like to be.

In response to Jo's comment: Barry and I drove to the store to return bottles for CRV on Tuesday, but decided to just give our bottles to a guy who was standing in line. It did occur to me that perhaps he would not put the $3 or $4 to the 'best' use (e.g. that he might drink or smoke the money away), but I came to the conclusion that it's not for me to say what the best use of that money is or what that man "should" do with his life or his money.

But just as it's not for me to say what he should do, it's not for me to coercively take the earned wealth of others away and decide to put it to better use.

While I can get behind some small taxes for certain government functions, socialism seems to me to be the devil in a pretty dress. Its premise is that it's ok for governments to do things that individuals would rightly go to prison for.

I for one am proud of the people of this city's response to this disaster. I don't think that most of the people involved ignore human suffering the rest of the time, they may just not agree on strategy. There is a time and a place for what happened this week, and it may not be all of the time.

However, I do think it sad if people in need were being turned away while food was rotting.
Rev. Duchess said…
I am glad that we are using the blog as a forum for sharing our feelings, ideas and opinions.I have always wanted my blog to be a safe venue for open dialogue. And this week, it is a place to help process all that got stirred up this week.

Keep your minds and your hearts open!

with love
Anonymous said…
How could a migrant worker prove that he was displaced by the fire?
So many places need volunteers on a regular basis. There are many volunteer openings that are not related to the fire. So many people need food and shelter on a regular basis.
Some play the blame game. The homeless and hungry are at fault for their plight. In that case, the fire victims who built in a known danger zone or did not fire-proof there home should also be at-fault. Why blame? Help those in need.
Anonymous said…
One thing I'm delighted with is how much the local and national media is ALSO reported the GOOD that people are doing. How bizarre!

As much as I dont want to beleive it, I'm beginning to see that there are some folks who no longer know the difference between right and wrong. The thinking that one should "get over" on the system, on the man, seems to have become
the norm generation after generation. As much as the press tries to make it seem otherwise, I know this group is but a small sampling of the overall population and for that I'm again grateful.

Thank you Ellie and Jo Blaine for your knowledge and skilled writing.

Yep! I love San Diego. Now I think the world may have just felt a little of that San Diego love too.


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