Two days ago, Joe placed a new bar, a nice one made from goats milk just in case you want to know, on the tray in the shower. He set it on the stub left from the other one. That one had been a black soap that produced the nicest lather. I remembered, when I saw the new bar, all nice and plump, sitting there tempting me, about the first time I’d washed with the other soap. How clean it made me feel. I started to feel a bit sorry for it. I mean there was more left, it would last another week or so, it still had much to give.
I reached for it and it dropped from my hand and slid to the drain. It was too far away for me to reach. Again, I felt almost pity for it. I did. Really. But I grabbed the new soap and began my shower routine. When I was done I noticed the old soap, all soggy from being submerged in the flow from the shower, I called to Joe to rescue it and put it back on the tray. It didn’t deserve to be treated that way.
A few days later we were out and about and we came upon a old fellow, sitting on cardboard, leaned against the wall of a building, with his cap out, asking for money. He had an old sign beside him, but it was so covered in grime that it was illegible. I carry with me $5.00 gift cards for Tims, a coffee shop that’s easy to find pretty much where ever you are. I stopped and gave him one of those cards, he smiled and said that he’d use it to go get a coffee and to get warm when he couldn’t take the cold any longer.
He opened a little bag, resting by his side, attached to him by a long strap over the opposite shoulder. He wanted to place the card carefully among the stuff he had in there. We were still chatting and I notice a small stub of soap placed lovingly in his bag.
A stub of soap.
My stupid, stupid, heart.
I realized that I had got all attached and imbued an inanimate object with feelings and humanity, a piece of soap for heaven’s sake, and yet, even in this interaction, even with giving him the card, even with our brief chat, I didn’t feel those things for him. Not really. Not deeply. I sat there stunned.
Accused by a piece of soap.
My stupid, stupid heart.
I discovered that humanity is something that, in my mind, I have the power to grant to people, to things, to the lonely tree behind my apartment building. And because I have the power to grant it, I also have the power to withhold it. Not anyone’s actual humanity, but my willingness to accede to it in how I see them.
I don’t want that to be under my power, my wish.
I want the ability to see the humanity of every person I meet hard wired into my brain. I don’t want to be able to separate some from the herd.
But I am able.
And I do.
Because of my stupid, stupid heart.