God Damn It, You've Got To Be Kind.

I have been sitting with these thoughts for a week. Here goes.

A Senator is seated to my left, a legislator is sitting to my right and a novelist sits across the table from me. I am drinking bottled beer, the Senator is drinking black coffee and the legislator is having a gin and tonic, the novelist does not have a drink although he is jotting something down in his moleskin journal. We share a dinner of salmon, chicken and green beans. The conversation covers “where are you from”, “how did you get here”, “what camera should I buy?” and “how do you know when you have a balanced and educated understanding of the what-nots of this world?”

Earlier in the day my wife and I had the opportunity to spend time with the girls of San Mar Children’s home. “I don’t know what each of their stories are, but I can tell you that the resilience I saw in each of their eyes was a profound lesson in love and forgiveness.” You can read the rest of my wife’s thoughts on our day here; she was the one that gave us the opportunity.

When leaving the home and saying our goodbyes, one girl stopped us and said, “thank you for really showing up.” The word “really” broke my heart and, at the same time, made me a better person. Kurt Vonnegut said, “There's only one rule that I know of, babies—God damn it, you've got to be kind.” As I write this there is a crowd in California that is picketing and protesting the legalization of gay marriage. One thousand pages in the bible on serving the poor and less fortunate and they pick the 4 vague sentences to stage a protest. Wonder how many homeless people they passed on their way to the protest.

Sitting at dinner I was able to ask the Senator all my questions about the political state of affairs. He was kind, politically correct and respectful with his responses. He answered, “No, I do not know Obama or McCain”, “Yes, I feel the same about Palin”, “Things are bad but the financial environment of 1991 was worse”, “People are good on both sides of the aisle, most of them”, “That’s never been asked of me.” At this point I am screaming quietly in my head.

The legislator makes remarks on the 1960’s, peace core and why she became an activist for the disabled. They serve us pie. I have pumpkin, it was good. The legislator looks like an earthy Meryl Streep to me. She tells me, “the Senator and I don’t share the same views but I like him.” I lean over to her and say, “I also chose hope.” We giggled. Then she proceeds to tell me about the best grass fed steak she ever had. “The beef was grown in Kansas, flat land not many trees, but they can place a tasty steak on your dinner plate. Plus no vegetable; just steak and a large potato.” I’m stuck on the word “grown”. At least it was grass fed. She was kind to me. Her husband leans over to me and tells me that he loves the bridges of Pittsburgh. “I have a print in my kitchen.” The legislator said, “that’s Pittsburgh? I thought it was somewhere in England or France.” I hope she still enjoys the print. I talk about my previous evening trying to photograph the not-so-light-up-night in Pittsburgh.

The Senator chimes in, “John, on your last question, I was giving it some thought. It works the same way for us in the Senate as it does for you. We try our best with the information we have.”

That’s it… that is how our Government works. I look up at the novelist, he seems uninterested in the conversation. He likes pie – he is on his third slice of apple.

This is the thought that has been ringing in my head for a week:

We try our best with the information we have - God damn it, you've got to be kind. Really.