Saturday night there was a thief in our garage.
We left the door open by accident.
There's a lot of good stuff in our garage: an upright freezer full of food, numerous bicycles, large power tools, a couple of those kiddie mo-peds that look like scaled-down motorcycles....
By the door into the house there is also a series of buckets into which folks are supposed to drop their shoes before coming inside.
What our thief (or potentially, theives) took were two pair of Nike Air Pegasus, size 10. Mine. One was a new pair--possibly six weeks old and still embued with the Ray-Bradbury-like ability of new sneaks to leap tall buildings--and the other was the grungy old pair (tattered and beat to shit) that you keep around to use when you're mowing the lawn.
There were a lot of other shoes in the buckets: my son's brand-new size 12 basketball shoes, my grandson's brand new kid sneakers (who the hell with a Y chromosome knows what size little kids' shoes are?), my oldest daughter's cool pair of high-heel boots....
So at first, while we were looking around everywhere to make sure Dad was not shoeless because he is senile and left them under the bed, I was very confused by this particular theft. New and nearly destroyed size 10 Air Pegasi....
Then I realized, in perhaps (I'd like to think, at least) in the same flash of insight which struck the old priest in Les Miserables when he found that Jean Valjean had departed with the silver candlesticks, it struck me.
The person in my garage ignored the freezer full of food, the power tools, the bikes, and the more expensive shoes because what he or she (or someone they loved) needed were a couple of pairs of size 10 shoes.
I think that when we watch the news and debate the bail-out for this bank or that automobile company, even when we talk about jobs or savings accounts it is somehow abstract and impersonal (if I happen to be doing OK), but two pair of size 10 shoes are mute testimony to the fact that not only is it going to get bad out there, it's already bad out there.
[By the way, on the zillionth of an off-chance that anybody reading this actually took the shoes, I need to tell you three things: (1) there's a funny lump in the insoles; that's a neuroma pad I wear and if you don't rip it out you will be very uncomfortable; (2) we've started checking at night that we've put the garage door down, because strange people sneaking into my house while my family sleeps make me nervouse--lock and load nervous; and (3) next time, come to the door and we'll see what else we can help with; the shoes you obviously needed, but there's food here and even clothes.]
Then today I read the articles in the WNJ about Hunger in Delaware.
[Pause for a short rant: I cannot find these stories on DelawareOnline.com, because the new website design and interface are f**king impossible to use. I love it. A major series on hunger in my state and you can't pull it up on the goddamn website. Arrgh!]
The good news is that one of the three family profiles was written by my friend Beth Miller, which means she has survived the round of lay-offs. I was scared to ask. Beth is good people and works hard at getting it right--sometimes so right that what she discovers never makes it past her editors into print. I'm glad you're still there, Beth.
The bad news is that hunger in Delaware, which has always been real, is getting worse, despite a small army of volunteers doing things like serving 10,000 meals a month at the Sunday Breakfast Mission or the various organizations of the Food Bank of Delaware, of which my own parish at Resurrection is part.
The State of Delaware, like most states these days, is out of money--and if the State of Delaware had the money I have my doubts about its ability to get that money converted into food and into the hands of the people who need it without hiring at least six dozen bureaucrats and creating new forms to fill out.
Forms which undocumented workers, or over-extended middle class families might not be able to fill out.
A lot of the citizens of Delaware--even the ones who aren't hungry and who will get through the Recession with a roof over their children's heads and food on the table--are having to cut corners and cut back, and disposable income is down.
But that's not an excuse to let anyone go hungry.
There is a misconception about Libertarians that we want to see a society ruled by social darwinism, in which the fit survive, and the weak .... don't. That's why we want less government: so pregnant unwed mothers can't get neonatal vitamins and healthcare.
Utter horseshit. I want pretty much the same thing my friend the social democrat-progressive Dana Garrett wants: a society in which people take care of each other. We just differ radically on how this is to be achieved.
The hunger crisis in Delaware (I'm not up to tackling the nation just yet) is one that calls out for Libertarian solutions--as long as Libertarians are who they really say they are.
As long as I am who I say I am.
That means: it's time for Delaware citizens who know there's going to be dinner on the table at home tonight to stand up and make sure that happens for everybody in the State, regardless of how they got to be hungry, regardless of whether or not they deserve it, regardless of whether or not they have brown skin and no documents.
FINALLY!!! I just found the link to the F**king hunger articles. It only took seven, count 'em seven damn search pages to find the link the to article that ran ON PAGE ONE!!!
Back to our story....
I don't believe that much in government mandates, but I do believe in Luke 18:18-30 (which I prefer to Mark 10:17-25 and Matthew 19:16-30 because, if you read very carefully, in Luke the rich man challenged by Jesus is not explicitly mentioned as rejecting this teaching and leaving, as he is in Mark and Matthew. He is shaken, but he does not walk away, which gives me some hope.).
So here's what I am going to do tomorrow, because I have to do better.
1) I'm going to get that bag of food that's been sitting in the pantry floor for several days to the Resurrection Food Pantry on my way to work.
2) I'm going to contact Charlotte McGarry (here's how you do it) at Delaware Does More in order to get hold of not one, but two, of the Food Bank of Delaware's donation barrels. I'm going to take one to Delaware State University during the Spring Semester (the students left last week) and see just how much food 3,500 students, 175 faculty, and 250+ staff and administrators can donate. I'm going to take the other one and set it in my driveway (deed restrictions be damned!) and take my kids door to door around the neighborhood to see if we can't fill that puppy at least once before Christmas.
3) I'm going to challenge the Libertarian Party of Delaware (are you reading along, Jim?) to contact Monique Chadband (use the same link above in number two, Jim, to find her) at the United Way to set up a Libertarians Against Hunger fund-raising drive. Over 3,600 Delaware citizens pulled the Libertarian lever for Congressional candidate Mark Parks--so it's time for us to find them and get them to put their money where their ideology is: you can't make a convincing case for a non-coercive society if you're not willing to step forward and help your neighbors when they need it.
[Side-note: I must, for sake of truth in advertising, admit that I am not a gigantic United Way fan, because I prefer to make my own donations to the charities of my choice, and there are several charities of my choice that the UWD hasn't supported. But when there are people going hungry, I'm going to go with the mechanism that's already in place for voluntary assistance, not some theoretical construct. The best IS sometimes the enemy of the good.]
4) I'm going to try, within the next month, to meet the example set by Brian Shields (a Libertarian who puts his money and his heart where his cursor is), and donate a full day's pay to the Food Bank of Delaware. I'm going to aim to do that at least once per quarter from this point forward.
5) I'm going to keep at this as long as there are hungry people in Delaware.
6) I'm going to try to make you feel like shit, either in Delaware or wherever you live if you're not pitching in.
But I am not going to try to coerce you--unless you have so little character that you consider shame to be coercion.
Too often, when Libertarians say, "It shouldn't be the State's power to take money from person Y to give to person X," both the Libertarians and their political opponents forget that when you say that, you are also saying, "I expect the people themselves can and will step up to the plate to take care of things by volunteering."
As Brian Shields so eloquently put it: Get out of your comfort zone.
I can do better.
So can you.