I’m appalled as I walk down Pico Blvd beside Glatt Matt and its dirty competitor at how many Jews park in traffic and run in to the store to get something, oblivious to the cars piling up behind them.
I also felt shame walking around my neighborhood and seeing all the trash piling up. It reminded me of Israel, the country strewn with more trash than any other I know of.
Shame wells up in me as I thread my way through the cluster of young wives standing near my home, animatedly talking with one another as their children play at their feet. Four shopping bags dangle from one arm, five from another, and I shift them uncomfortably as I carry them from my car, practically bent over from their weight.
I take a deep breath as I try to quell the hurt and disappointment I feel, the anger that courses through me. For I know – sadly and with great certainty – that as I wend my way toward my front door, no eager young hands will try to wrest the bags from me and insist on helping me drag them up the stairs to the third floor where I live. Not one of these fine young frum women will detach themselves from the group to inquire: “Do you need help?”
The clammy cold hand of truth grips my heart and tells me: “You are invisible to them, your need is invisible to them.” What else can I think, how else can I rationalize their indifferent behavior? That they do see me struggling mightily and simply don’t care? I’d rather not be seen.
I wish I could convince myself they still consider me young – not their contemporary, clearly, but young enough to easily carry these bags myself. But I’m in my late fifties, as old, or even older, than their own mothers, and my extra weight makes me lumber, not limber.
For years I’ve tried making excuses for them, but I’m running dry; I want to think well of them, but I just don’t know how to explain their oblivion. Shame scorches me, but I’m not quite sure why: is it my own shame at being rendered so irrelevant, or is it the shame I feel as the physical capacities I once took for granted now fail me?