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Only As Blessed As The Beggar Is Cared For

I stood out on my veranda enjoying the view.
How lucky I am to be surrounded by so much beauty,
protected from the madness of our world.
But luck doesn’t seem fair,
so it must be that I am blessed —
blessed by a higher power that granted me all this.
I post pictures of my beautiful home.
I am grateful, so much so that this higher power
keeps giving to me.

But sometimes I feel isolated.
The quiet eats away my skin.
I turn on music and every song sounds dissonant.
It irritates me so I turn it off.
It’s lonely out here above everyone else.
So I went to all the local events in search of community,
made lots of friends and posted pictures of us together — a showcase of gratitude for the many blessings in my life.

But sitting with my view, I can’t stand the unease,
and the music I play still rings with dissonance.
I tune it out and demand clarity.
I don’t know how to be alone.
I have all these friends but still feel lonely.

So I set out to master the art of solitude.
I attend silent retreats, meditate, spend money,
eat great food, and practice yoga every morning.
I post pictures of my abdominals in yoga postures,
and all my friends support my improvements,
and are probably a little envious too.
But music still sounded out of tune.
So I turned it off.

In that silence, I realized that I hadn’t cried in a long time.
I’ve been practicing gratitude so aggressively
I forgot about sadness. I get dizzy a lot.
So I went to town to watch a real “tear-jerker.”
On the way I drove by a homeless woman holding a sign,
reminded me how blessed I am.
I’m resourceful too.
I rolled down my window and handed her a dollar bill.
Her lack of enthusiasm reminded me
how grateful I am to be grateful.

I was a little late to the theatre but I managed to find my friends.
Halfway into the movie people sniffled and wiped away tears.
It didn’t make any sense.
The movie was happy, and beautifully shot.
I paid to cry, and I wanted my money back.
The credits started playing
and the theater sounded with dissonant music.

Driving home in my car,
I still felt unsettled when I approached the homeless woman again.
And then I felt ashamed.
Why would someone so blessed feel this way?
I glanced over at the homeless woman as I passed by
and she looked at me with eyes that pierced me.
And then a voice from out of nowhere said to me,

You can only ever be as blessed as the beggar is cared for.

Erica Louise Shugart

Written by

Wave-riding lover of everything wet. Less energy for the screen and more for my animal and plant neighbors.

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