Sunday, October 30, 2011

sadness is worthless

In the Main Library right now.  Decided to come here to try to study for my mid-term tomorrow.  May have been a mistake.  I accidentally picked the room on the fifth floor, where the Dungeons and Dragons group meet to play every Sunday.

But here is my biggest problem.  I forgot that the Main Library is basically the daytime home for all disenfranchised people in Salt Lake.  Meaning, I am staring sadness in the it's hard for me to concentrate on studying.  The older, weathered looking people who have backpacks with wheels that look like they have rolled through every storm that has hit the state make me sad.  The gangly, dirty looking youth make me sad as well...but maybe less so because there is at least the hope of a future.  But it's the kids, the babies, that UNDO me.

I remember talking with a Social Worker in one of my classes and she was joking about how a girl in our class was guaranteed to have burn out in six months.  That there was no way that she could hack it.  And it suddenly struck me that all of my sadness, all of my worry, was absolutely worthless.

It did not help anyone.  What did it do?  Pacify me in to feeling like less of a monster, because instead of helping someone in need, I had felt pity for them?  Gosh, I am sure that my welling of emotion sure did them a lot of good.  Some of the Social Workers in my classes have seemed like they were made of steel to me.  I am learning about these sad, SAD situations that people are in and I am welling up.  Finding some subconscious comfort in my ability to empathize with those who are in need.

Yet, what do I do?  I study them, I learn about their trials.  And then I return to my heated car filled with gas, my furnished home in my safe neighborhood, and eat out of my fridge that is filled with food.  Meanwhile, these classmates of mine are actually out helping, saving, understanding.  I finally get that they can't well up with tears, because it slows you down.  It doesn't help anyone.  It paralyzes you.  It is worthless to be sad.  If anything I should be mad.  Because at least that spurs on action.

I just don't know how they do it.  Right now I am watching this man, carrying around what must be a six month old baby.  Their belongings spread out over one of the library chairs.  It is November tomorrow and this baby wears a onesie with nothing on his feet.  Thinking about this baby has eaten up an hour of my study time.  And the Dungeons and Dragons group is just getting louder plotting out their battles.

I keep turning my head to try to spot this family.  I asked the father if he needed help.  What was I thinking?  How was I in any position to help?  Was I going to bounce his baby while I studied?  Offer my jacket as clothing for him to wrap his baby in?  I am embarrassed to admit that I was going to offer money.  Because isn't that the easiest way to pacify ones guilt?  To buy someone off?

Is it because I have a "baby" of my own?  I don't think so.  I think that I have fallen prey to emotionalism.  I hear the baby crying now.  Babies cry all the time, right?  I have to stop thinking about this family.  One of the Dungeon and Dragon girls just asked me if I was waiting for someone because I keep looking behind to this family.  I snapped back that I was just studying, and was that OK?!

I feel like a mess.  A non-contributing mess.  Waxing poetic about the injustices of life and the trials of those who are suffering while I just watch from behind glass walls in this 5th floor Library study room.  OK, now I get to study for the next three hours for a test.  Compartmentalize.  Shut the door on these feelings of despair that I have right now.  Blink back the tears and the shut down my mind that runs like a mouse on a wheel, out of control with feelings of helplessness.

1 comment:

Danielle Hatch said...

I had similar feelings when I moved to Spokane as a new (and completely overwhelmed) mother and I would see so many agitated teenage moms at the supermarket who looked like life had dealt them a rough hand and they were passing on that rough hand to their kids. I'm not sure that there's any way to really assuage the sadness from seeing people in difficult circumstances but my mom and I have started volunteering as CASA's and I've really appreciated the opportunity to be involved in at least one child's life in some way however minuscule. Though I'm sure as a social worker you'll have the opportunity to do much more to help in a concrete way. Good luck with your midterm!