I have traveled to and/or worked in 42 countries, give or take one here or there, and not just the ones with cute little bed and breakfasts and air-conditioned museums. I have seen pervasive abject poverty, cultural oppression, and government brutality that makes you stamp your feet in frustration and shake your fists at the sky.
Today I saw something similar here, blocks from my apartment, that made me want to do both of those things plus cry a little in embarrassment and shame.
I use Zip Cars to ferry me and my acquisitions to and from CostCo. These vehicles are stashed around the city, in hidden parking lots, unused driveways, and hide-away on-street spots. This morning I found myself picking up a car in a lot I never knew existed, behind an apartment building just down the street from my apartment. For mid-morning on a weekday the lot was chock full of loiterers, although an unlikely group of loiterers - men, women, children of all ages, whole families, elders, a whole range of ethnic groups and skin colors.
When I returned, I saw why. A local food pantry or shelter was handing out basic and fresh provisions. Fruit, bread, and other things. The line went around half the parking lot's perimeter and the atmosphere was one of Christmas morning. Or maybe Halloween for adults trying to feed themselves and their families.
I had just rented a car to drive and buy more food than I alone can consume in a week (although much of it is non-perishable and will last indefinitely) and what looked like every family in my neighborhood was standing in line for a distribution of free food. Within blocks of multiple grocery stores and more than a few new high-end restaurants, and across the street from - but hidden from view of - half-a-million dollar condo units.
I wake up before dawn because that is when I prefer to swim. Not because I have to get to the first of two jobs that support my family.
I am hungry because of how hard I work my body. Not because I can't afford to buy food.
I am free to run errands in the middle of the day because my schedule and life-style allow it. Not because I'm unemployed or unemployable.
How did I get this lucky?