Replacing Broken Bricks
I got up from my desk to get coffee and there she was. Standing. I asked how things were going and she gave the usual response – good. I said the same. We’re not that much different. My asking how the baby was made her stop for a moment. Rolling the question around until she found the handle.
“Oh, you mean the BABY,” she said.
The last time I had saw her she was with a beautiful little baby boy. Her kids were grown, but not that grown, so I knew it wasn’t her baby or her grandchild. He couldn’t have been more than six or eight months and was extremely unhappy. That day I saw her neither was she.
My friend recounted the steps taken up to the moment of her caring for the baby and me seeing her that day. It raised an existential question, “How much…?” Not how much monetarily. That’s almost an easy equation to solve. Almost.
Picture yourself standing at a well serving glasses of water. Lots of people are thirsty and so are you but maybe not as much because you have a well. You’re able to dole out ounces at a time but you have to keep an eye on the bottom of the well so that you don’t see it. At a certain point before seeing the bottom you close the well. No one’s mad. It’s your well. You do what you want with it.
She looked at me. Wanting to say something knowing it would come out wrong. I’ve seen the look many times. The warmth of frustration encircling your brain when wrestling with a question that shouldn’t exist or a problem that shouldn’t have to be solved. Heart bursting with the incredulity of it all. “Why is this happening?” “How long can I keep this up?” “Am I wrong for thinking this?”
I wasn’t there to validate her feelings. I was just there. And I understood.
|We stood together staring at the vast wall before us. Staring at the bricks that were each placed carefully. Deliberately. Some out of place just ever so slightly. Just enough to give the idea that it’s supporting the wall. A wall unusually high and abnormally long. Like a giant game of Jenga. Every faulty brick you remove you have to replace with a better brick. But it isn’t a game of Jenga, is it? Real people are affected by each “brick” you move or remove. People keep putting bricks out of place, too. Sometimes deliberately, sometimes not.
Natural disasters happen quickly. They ravage the land, do damage to structures, displace people. There’s a sort of a “finish line” to it all. You absolutely know when a building’s been repaired; a fallen tree removed; a person is no longer homeless. The work my friend and I do, along with many others, is not so… clean.
Unlike natural disasters, societal problems were created by people. And they’ve been creating walls and moving and removing bricks for a long time. A quote I recall when faced with some of the things that shouldn’t be is: “Never Attribute to Malice That Which Is Adequately Explained by Stupidity”. That works most of the time. Sometimes it’s just plain old malice. Facing malicious intent can be daunting and downright exhausting at times. I could say something quippy right about now. To wrap up the moment. But I don’t have anything.
We smiled at each other. Then laughed. “So, I’m fine,” she said. As if to say ’that was really deep, sorry’. But instead she said, “How about you?”
“I’m doing good,” I said.
And we went back to replacing and adjusting the bricks in the wall.