Don’t leave America behind

There is a low hum in the land right now.

A lot of people are losing their optimism and fervor. Food and gas prices have increased. Years ago, people would joke about leaving the country during hard times. Now the talk has become serious.

Fear of tax increases has some people desperately wanting to flee. A few months ago, there were serious attempts by some legislators to have states secede from the union, because that always ends well.

I am shaken by the hard times, too. But recently, something happened to me.

While doing my shopping in Glendale, I ran into a man named Rob. I recognized him. He did not recognize me. I met him once about four years ago across town at a bus stop. The first time I met him, he told me about the hard times that had befallen him. His utilities had been turned off. The food in his refrigerator was spoiling.

He was in between jobs with two boys to feed. He had been wandering up and down the street begging for money. He was brandishing his debit card and insisting that he wanted to put the money on it, so he could build up enough to pay his bills and get his family’s life back on track.

It was not easy. He told me how he was spat upon by people he’d asked for money. Ethnic slurs were hurled at him. Not to mention the classic cold shoulder. That was four years ago.

When I saw him again, he told virtually the same story again. The main difference being this time he said, “Colton, God told me to approach you.”

Some of you may question his truthfulness. Say what you will about my perceived naïveté but I chose to believe him.

Four years ago all I had to give him was an unused gift card to Ross. This time, I actually had a few dollars to spare. That contrast alone was a sign that things actually can get better. A little patience, and thinking of others before yourself, can really drown your sorrows and remind you of how really blessed you are in this country. It didn’t end there.

Rob and I talked about the economy and how he could keep striving on day after day like this. He told me that it was moments like this that helped him to keep his faith in his country. He reminded me that poverty in this country is practically royalty compared to the middle classes of so many other countries and that he still felt truly blessed.

My intuition told me that it was not prudent to tell Rob that we had met before. I did not want to embarrass him if per chance his story turned out to not be true. I simply wanted to believe it was true, and I left it at that. When we parted ways, I felt renewal.

Some people have been trained to scorn the belief in American exceptionalism.

Let them. They live a different standard. A lower one.

The recovery is slow, but it is happening. Maybe in another four years I will run into Rob again, and we’ll be able to celebrate.

 

Reach the columnist at crgavin@asu.edu or follow him at @coltongavin

 

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