“What goes around don’t come around, not in this town…..”
Those are the words of a local girl guitar player, a rather good one who so poignantly captures the essence of this place I call the 9th circuit of hell. Walls come down but walls go up, 7 for every one that falls. “What goes around don’t come around, not in this town.”
I can so relate to her sense of futilty, what it feels like to be rendered invisible, powerless, a sentiment echoed by so many of the disenfrancised around these parts. It can be spooky, like an ancient curse, like how is this even possible? How can I sow this thing and reap nothing? Over and over and over again. And the kids, the first thing the kids do is dream of escape, can I leave? How do I even get out of here?
That sense of being invisible is innate to my job, innate to caring for others in general. You can invest so much in relationships, in taking care of others, and yet nobody ever sees you, not really. You become like a bad taste in their mouth, a vague memory of something unpleasant, a time they were vulnerable and needed you. An unpleasantness best forgotten.
It’s hard on the pride, you can give everything you have, spend 20 years cleaning people houses, stay up all night with them when their husband’s leave, hold their hands through miscarriages, take care of their elderly parents, and all these little acts of love get reduced to nothing more than, “Do I know you? You look vaguely familiar?”
“It’s just a small town,” I always say, “We’ve crossed paths before.”
The other day, resentful about feeling a bit like a hologram, I snapped out a reply to a woman who asked, “So when did you move here and where are you from?”
Forty years ago. I live about six blocks from your house, I remember when you came here, I watched your children grow up, my husband put a roof on your house, I walk by your house everyday. Every single day. 365 days a year for 27 years. I’ve walked past your house 9855 times. I remember the garden wedding you had for your daughter and when you totalled your car. I cared for your father for 3 years before he passed on. I used to smuggle him cigars and reeses peanut butter cups…”
But I’d already lost her, she really didn’t care to know who I am or what history we might share. She was just making small talk and I had violated the rules of superficiality, the rules that demand little white lie answers like, “fine, I’m just fine.”
We are getting older now, all of us, nearly half a century spent together never really getting to know one another. I know the pain of that, of what it is like to be rendered invisible, always left on the outside looking in. To not be seen and known, your small gifts ignored and taken for granted, your presence reduced to nothing more than a vaguely uncomfortable feeling, should I know you?
That’s how our Lord and Savior probably feels over and over again, times thousands of years, and I’ve tasted that just a tiny bit. I died just to know you. I gave everything to bring you into a right relationship with me. I was there with you when you were hurting. I leave you gifts you do not see. I knock on your door, but you do not answer. I pass you in church and you say, do I know you?
Unrequited love. Our Lord and Savior knows it well.