Everyone’s Loss

As is my custom, I walked around downtown Portland on my lunch hour today. I looked at people – probably more than was polite – and wished that I knew all their stories. This is a gentleman who served in the United States military and was stationed in Germany in the early 1970’s:

This couple’s sign. Is its self-disparaging message honest? Or a way to attract attention? Or an attempt at dark humor?

I asked them if I could take a picture of their sign, and he said “sure”. Maybe he thought I would give them something in return. Or maybe I was gawking. I hope I avoided insulting them and acknowledged their humanity, but I’m really not sure.

This woman talked to me about disappointment and perseverance. Chris Hardy came to Portland about a year ago hoping to work and attend graduate school and study education at the University of Portland.

She taught in Baltimore for a while, then decided she wanted to move into the field of school administration. Her hopes for attending UP were dashed when she was told she needed experience in the local school system, but that there were no openings, not even for an intern or volunteer position. She works at temporary jobs, but has decided to return to Baltimore at the end of May, because teachers are needed there. I wished her luck.

All these people have talents with which to grace the world. It is possible that they have not had a chance to express them yet. It is imponderably sad to imagine what society is losing when opportunities are lacking, or when people are left to drift, and slip through the cracks. Like the Unitarians, I believe in the inherent worth and dignity of every human being. For all I know, the world’s potentially most gifted and visionary school administrator may at this moment be unemployed and sporting a wild mohawk in Portland, Oregon.


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