Sunday, November 13, 2011

Twenty Dollars

We were sitting on the steps of the First Unitarian Universalist Church reading to each other as we waited for the church to close so we could lay out our cardboard, when someone leaving the Gay Men's Chorus' rehearsal handed us a $20 bill. "Share it - equally" he said, and walked away. I reached for the bill, wanting to secure the funds to ride BART across the bay so I could attend the first meeting about a dream-theater project I wanted to join. Having the bill in hand would make this easier, I thought.

The next day, as I walked with the $20, it started to weigh in my pocket. What if someone asked me for money? Now I had some, and would have to decide if their need trumped ours. Did holding the bill then make me responsible for breaking it so we could each take our part, or leading the group in a decision-making process about how we should spend it as a group (would that mean I'd end up losing my BART money?)?

After carrying the money for a day, I was grateful to be able to toss it onto an altar of the Abundance of the Streets we built in the center of our reflection circle. As I did, I stated that I hoped to use my portion to help pay for my BART ticket. Suddenly, my fellow retreatants reached into their pockets and produced two BART tickets (one with enough fare to get me to Berkeley) and a few dollars, which they handed me. Now, I had all I needed!

By the time we gathered again, someone had broken the $20, and each of us took our $2.50 share. I now had my BART tickets, plus over $5.00 - I felt rich! Maybe I'd buy a burrito on my way to the meeting. (mmmm.....burrito....) But Melissa brought a friend to the circle who, after a few jokes and magic tricks, told us he needed $18 more to reach his weekly $30 goal to supplement his government check. I handed him my $5.00 and said good-bye to my imaginary burrito. The man walked away smiling, with $8 more in his pocket, after a few others chipped in. I ate a free cup of Food Not Bombs, and went to my meeting full and happy.

The next day, I wrote this poem, inspired in part:

I dance lighter with empty pockets
And when they're full
I have no room for more
I suppose I could stuff them
With dollars, pennies, important notes
Things I find on the path
Like cigarette butts
Each item I carry with me
Carries the stories of those who carried it
Why should I trap the stories
In over-stuffed pockets?
Why would I want to make myself lumpy?
When I could just share the stories
Share the objects that carry them
Thus weaving a net of stories
Each carrier a knot
Each item a strand
Like a $20 bill
Earned through hard work
Withdrawn from a Wall Street bank
Placed in a new credit union account
Before being handed by a gay singer
On the steps of a church
To a flock of Fools
Sleeping like they were homeless
Before breaking it at a farmers' market
So it can be passed around
And given to a beggar.

A net like this could catch the world!

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