I had every intention of writing a complete bummer of a column this week.
It would have started off with Mayor Jenny Durkan’s budget and how the $3.2 million increase in homeless spending that she’s proposed is a pathetic substitute for the $48.5 million the Employee Head Tax would have raised annually.
Then I probably would have said something about how Durkan’s rhetoric about “living within our means” by not raising taxes on businesses is hollow comfort to those who suffer and die on our streets and meaningless trifle to our own homegrown billionaires who rely on tax breaks to thrive.
After that, I might have riffed for a bit on last week’s Project Homeless story in the Seattle Times, where Vianna Davila reveals how Seattle is following San Francisco’s lead on sweeping homeless encampments, but with fewer resources and more futility. For about the thousandth time, I’d point out that forcing people to move without offering better alternatives is pointless cruelty at public expense, maybe mentioning that wasting money on sweeps is not exactly fiscally responsible.
Then, I’d have contrasted Durkan’s budget to the King County Board of Health proposal, which pleads for a true emergency-style response to homelessness in time for winter — and I’d have noted the overwhelming likelihood that this will not happen. Because we value the sensibilities of the comfortable over the lives of the poor.
But that’s not the column I wrote, because today I’m tired of feeling like everything is wrong.
I’m tired of pointing out the obvious, like without affordable housing, there is nowhere for homeless people to go. And that without shelter, people die. And that in a city with so much wealth, this much misery is a grave public sin.
There will be time for all that during the budget process — hopefully by then my rage and disappointment will be transformed into something more lucid and useful — so instead, I’m giving myself, and you, gentle reader, a break.
Today, I’m making a short list of the things for which I’m grateful.
Today, I’m making a short list of the things for which I’m grateful. The institutions that use their power for good. The people who bring their hearts to the fight. Those who suffer but refuse to be broken.
I’m grateful for what’s left of a free press that shines a light on all the secret conversations and deal-making and political compromises that hold unaccountable privilege in place.
I’m grateful for the skeptics. The filers of the public information requests, and the revealers of corruption. The connectors of the dots and the destroyers of secrets.
I’m grateful for the doers, who look at things as they are and find them sadly wanting. Who know that changing this broken world begins with a simple question: “What can I do?” Who nurture their anger and temper their despair with the hope and the knowledge that action is never futile. Who move forward in their uncertainty to oppose the comfortable arrogance of wealth and power.
I’m grateful for the everyday kindnesses of those who recognize the humanity of the struggling and broken. Who see the pain and suffering of the poor, and instead of being distressed at their own discomfort extend themselves to act. Who give money to panhandlers without asking why. Who comfort those in need. Who feed the hungry, even when it’s against the law. Who instead of looking away, see the pain in people’s eyes and hearts and recognize that as their own.
I’m grateful for the everyday healers who bandage the wounds of greed and indifference and shine their light through the cracks in the machine.
I’m grateful for the underpaid and underappreciated servants of the poor.
I’m grateful for the underpaid and underappreciated servants of the poor. Who mitigate the carnage of capitalism, even when the victims keep coming in waves without end. The tossers of stranded starfish back to the sea, who save and change lives one at a time without thought of thanks or reward.
I’m grateful for every person who believes their actions matter. The risk takers and visionaries who break new ground in the fields of possibility. The engagers in democracy, who plead and push and use their power.
I’m grateful for the light and grateful for the fight. I’m grateful for the beauty in every act of love, no matter how small. I’m grateful for it all.
Tim Harris is the Founding Director Real Change and has been active as a poor people’s organizer for more than two decades. Prior to moving to Seattle in 1994, Harris founded street newspaper Spare Change in Boston while working as Executive Director of Boston Jobs with Peace.
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