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December 15, 2008

What's the Two-One-One?

Handcircle Haven't heard much from these quarters in a while, eh? That's cuz your trusty servant has been hustling her ass off trying to bring in some of the cold hard stuff. Times is tough, mes amis, times is tough. I knew things were at crisis pitch when I read an article in the Times the other day about an emergency service the city of el lay offers. Y'all know about 411. And 911. But did you know about  211?

It's this groovy service that apparently isn't only for homeless folks. I mean, well, wait, no, it is primarily for homeless peeps, but it offers services like food - for those who are on the economy diet, shelter - for those who - whoops! - lost the house when we they weren't looking, and medical and health services - for adults and chillens.

The way it works is, say you don't have anywhere to stay tonight and sleeping in the car is getting tiresome. You dial 2-1-1 on your some nice stranger's cell phone, tell the 211 folks your trouble - et voilà! - you got digs for the evening. Maybe. In theory, anyway. In the article, a nice gentleman who worked for the 211 was staying past his quitting time in order to find shelter for a woman and her two kids for the night. She had been calling for a few hours and was beginning to lose her shit when she still hadn't gotten the go-ahead. Apparently, though, he made good, because he was pumping his fist in victory as he got back on the line with her. I'm sure it made a big difference to the woman and her family - but the real story is in the difference it made to the 211 guy.

When we give of our hearts, whether it's working at a soup kitchen, or listening to a friend sob out her guts, or waving and smiling at someone who flipped us off in traffic, we don't just make a difference in the world. We actually seem to rearrange some of the molecules that make up that nasty bit of business in the pit of our stomachs: FEAR. And thus dispel it - at least momentarily. It's something I spent my daughter's whole life instilling in her. And yet, in the midst of all this desperation, I'd forgotten it. Yesterday, we were chatting on the phone and she, wise child, said, "Mom, you've got nothing to be ashamed of. I've always been proud of you - you saved my life a couple of times, and you've always been there for me and countless others. Don't get down on yourself. You should be happy - even in the midst of this. You're a good person." And she's right.

Which leads me to another article in the same issue of the Times. It was titled "The Whole World Smiles With You" and it was about a groundbreaking study that proves - unequivocally - that if you're happy, you affect the happiness of those around you. The probability that your friend, who lives up to three miles away, will be happy depends on how happy you are - and vice versa! Your family and loved ones? Their mood is inextricably linked to yours. This isn't just "I'd like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony." This is SCIENCE, people.

We're living in a climate of panic, an atmosFEAR, if you will. It was created by us. It feeds on itself. And only we can change it. So we owe it to ourselves, to our children, to our spouses, to our parents, to our employees, to our pets, to our strangers in the night, to do whatever it takes to literally make the world a better place. It starts with us.

I'm starting from me. Today, I went to an ATM and had a horrible shock when I tried to get $40 out of it. As I walked down the street back to my car (that works and that is not paid for), I felt myself slipping from panic, to dread, to despair. That's when I stopped in my tracks and said aloud: "It's OKAY. People lose their stuff every day. It's not a new phenomenom. But it doesn't have to define us. We can lose our homes, and still have our dignity. We can ASK FOR HELP, and it doesn't make us losers." Almost immediately I felt better. Take THAT, Mr. ScaryMonsterUnderTheBed!

My sister and I were chatting recently and she referred to me as someone who had lost her shirt. I replied, "Yeah, as long as I don't lose my bra." Which cracked us both up and kicked the bad-feeling fairies ASSES.

I know, I know, it's a little harder these days to hold our heads up, but we must. We owe it to the world. We must give until there isn't anything left to give. I don't mean emptying our bank accounts (if there's anything still in them) but, come on, give the guy outside the CVS a buck. The dude looks like he hasn't slept since 1999. Be kind. Listen to someone.  Smile. Be gentle. Offer them a shoulder. You never know where they'll take that kindness. It might be just the thing they need to turn their life around. And you'll feel the fear in your own heart evaporate.

Sounds like a plan. An emergency plan.

Lucia can be found hanging outside the local CVS - and blogging on TheNew30.



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