Inside Out

marrakesh oz door 0520

I ran my tank completely empty yesterday, and I didn’t even realize how completely empty until today, when I am still wiped out and not very motivated. I don’t even know why. Stress, I suppose.

Every iota of every fiber of my being yesterday was fixated on applying for a $5,000 grant from the city. A few years back, we had a customer stiff us for $5,000, which felt like a large but not insurmountable amount — and that turned out to be the case.

Now this is what we do for $5,000: Kara plunked Fortino and James in front of computers, set herself up at hers, while I drove home to sit in front of mine, and at 10 minutes to 1 yesterday afternoon she had everyone keep refreshing until the application popped up. As soon as it became available, and everyone got in, Kara started clicking buttons and uploading the documents I had prepared. She submitted it in seven and a half minutes.

Two hours later, the city sent a congratulatory e-mail: we were approved for the $5,000. It’s a grant, not a loan, that comes with minor stipulations: we display a sticker (that they’re ordering through Pat’s) on our door for the remainder of the year, and we spend the money on wages and rent like we said we were going to. Right after the big pizza party. (Kidding! I’m kidding, just kidding, city officials.)

And then I ran out of steam. I was so focused on yesterday’s goal, gaining $5,000 to help keep our doors not currently opened and seven people employed, that once it was done I had nothing left.

Mornings I watch the state and national news, and there are myriad reports of people doing good in this world these days — I just had a friend refer to them as The Weird Times. The county’s nightly report logs the local volunteers and the numbers of hours they’ve put into helping. And that’s just the county’s assistance. That’s not the food pantry volunteers, or the people sewing masks, or anything else.

I watch these heroic stories — a teacher somewhere took in her student’s newborn brother, because everyone in the infant’s house was stricken with covid (the baby tested negative) — and feel guilty that I am not doing my part. I have O negative blood, and I’ve been eligible to donate since the end of March, and all of my blood is still inside me. There is nowhere to go with it in Gunnison until the bloodmobile comes, which it didn’t in March, but I still feel like I am not doing my part. A better person would be driving to Denver.

Lynn and I haven’t donated money anywhere, yet, other than buying food from local restaurants and adding a 30-40 percent tip. Sometimes I get paralyzed by the number of causes. Every non-profit in town needs its usual assistance, plus Weird Times help. People who were barely hanging on may now not know where their next meal is coming from, or if they’ll even have a rental place to cook it in. Other people who had been managing just fine suddenly now have no support system like the one income provides.

I keep thinking about the very nice woman who worked just down the street from us, who was fired by her mercurial boss earlier this year. She is the sole support for her three granddaughters, and she had recently found a new job where she will be treated better, but I don’t know if she has been able to work nor what she’s done about her grandkids.

The local paper this week included a letter signed by many people I know, urging the rest of us to consider our hispanic neighbors, many of whom are not going to get the stimulus checks that should eventually arrive for the rest of us.

I was already worried about the young man who worked for us last summer, one of six kids belonging to a single mom. I did discover, just yesterday, that there’s a “work opportunity” tax credit that hiring him might qualify us for, except that he may need to be 16 and I think he’s only 15. Without some free money from somewhere, I don’t know that we will have the wherewithal to hire him back — and it may well be that his family needs the money more than anyone else on our staff, none of whom are just in it for the fun we offer.

I needed to write some cards yesterday: thank-yous for their discounts to our internet company and our landlord, who also should get a sympathy card for the recent loss of his brother (not due to covid, at least not so far). And our window washing company: they hit the streets of downtown yesterday without charge, just to get their customers spruced up for re-opening. And now the city; I would like to thank it for helping us keep people employed.

Instead I sat there, nearly falling asleep until I made myself get up and sort some shirts. But I was completely toasted, white bread turned dark rye, by the time I got home and even through this morning.

A lot of times, when I think of the friends I haven’t checked on or even just checked in with, I wonder if expending all this effort on one tiny business is worth it. But there’s that old starfish story, surely you’ve heard it: thousands of starfish wash up onto a beach and are starting to die in the dehydrating sun. A boy comes along and starts tossing them, one at a time, back into the ocean. Someone watching him asks, “What are you doing? There are thousands of starfish and only one of you. What difference can you make?”

The boy gently tosses another starfish back into the ocean and replies, “It made a difference to that one.”

If we can keep Fortino’s young family fed and Gilly’s mortgage paid, then I suppose we’re doing something, but boy are there a lot of starfish on that beach right now, and sometimes it just wears me out.


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