Open Forum: Signs . . . and ‘poetry poles’

Posted: November 19, 2013

A friend recently commented about too much government interference in our lives — including fencing at the Grand Canyon where posted signs state “DON’T JUMP.” She thought it would be better to cut back on the “government” warnings and “let people go ahead and jump if they’re stupid enough to do so. It’s not up to the government to protect us.”

I wonder why our forefathers worked so hard on a Constitution if that’s the case.

Since we Americans seem to be in agreement about the pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness, I’m grateful to be living with seat belts, stoplights, the FDA, OSHA, the CDC, and the fence at the Grand Canyon, to name a few safeguards protecting us. Not that I would ever jump, but it does show me the limits of where it’s safe to walk to see the splendor and magnificence of the Grand Canyon or the majesty of Yosemite.

Government is involved in our lives — actually more than we thought since Edward Snowden surfaced several months ago. Maybe NSA’s mission statements need to be revised. The NSA seems to be too intrusive. On the other hand, maybe, just maybe, their activities help to keep us safe, since it is up to the government to protect us.

Although I follow the law and have nothing to hide but my wrinkles, I do worry about too much government intrusion. In any case, I plan to continue living my life as a good citizen whom the snoopers would find boring. Yes, “on the one hand, and on the other hand,” is the dilemma.

If I were deemed one of those mentally challenged among us, I would want my government to protect me. People with physical or mental challenges not only need but ought to have assistance.

We have been told in many religious traditions to help the “lesser of these.” When living in Morocco, I never passed a market stall where the vendor wasn’t giving food to people who held out their hands asking for sustenance. Sometimes, these people were so terribly crippled that in no way could they have provided for themselves. In the Buddhist tradition, monks beg for food. There you are with three major world religions — Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism — looking after their fellow humankind.

Maybe those unable to fend for themselves in previous eras might have been included under the title of “natural disaster.” Calamities of nature took care of everything. Fire, flood, storms, and perhaps physical and mental disabilities were deemed “natural disasters.” Maybe jumping off cliffs might just take care of “those people.”

Having just spent several days in Portland, my faith in mankind has been restored. Never have I visited a city which is so aware of all its people from the mentally and physically challenged to kids who ran away from home because anything was better than the situation they faced there. Four days taking public transportation meant we were on buses and light rail where we saw some of the underbelly of the city. My advice is that if you plan to become homeless, Portland, Ore., is the place for you.

Portland aims to take care of essentials for both physical and mental well-being. Consider this: Portland has a plethora of poetry poles — lovely, wooden, mailbox-like structures which house poetry for the passers-by to take. The people we stayed with had such a pole, and the woman of the house put a dozen copies of a favorite poem into the box each week. People walking by took them and sometimes wrote notes back regarding their feelings about the poem.

Poetry poles are all over Portland! What a way to build a community of a million souls! Help those who need it — feed the hungry, house the homeless, and feed the minds of those open to new ideas through poetry. Shall we each build a poetry pole and share our favorites? Portlanders are taking care of body and soul. I love it! We can become our “brother’s keeper” in so many ways. Let’s not let anybody fall off a cliff.

Sandra Lore resides in Winchester.