Posted by Susan Esther Barnes
For Sukkot for the last several years, I have helped to build the two sukkot (temporary huts) at the synagogue, and on occasion I shook the lulav, and I usually ate at least once each year in a sukkah. But that was about it. I never slept in one.
Sukkot is supposed to remind us of what it was like bimidbar (in the wilderness) as Moses led us away from Egypt and toward the Promised Land. It is supposed to remind us of the fragility of life and how everything we have is temporary. I never really got much of that feeling during Sukkot.
This year, I spent most of Sukkot in Kenya.
Kenya is where, while we were at the small Nairobi Wilson airport transferring between game camps, I noticed a breaking news story on a TV in a room off the main waiting area. Ultimately, more than 65 people were killed and over 100 more injured in this terrorist attack at the Westgate Mall.
As the incident was unfolding, I asked the airport employee watching nearby how far away the mall was. “Quite far away,” he reassured me, “Quite far.” Then he thought for a moment, and added, “About 30 kilometers” (less than 19 miles). That didn’t sound quite far enough away to me. That day I received the first of several emails from the U.S. State Department warning us of dangerous conditions and the need for heightened security in Kenya.
Kenya is a place where, painted on the side of our airplane, it said, “Cut here in emergency” (see photo above). I can’t imagine a scenario in which the best option in an emergency would be to wait while someone outside finds the proper tools to cut open the side of the aircraft.
For three days, we had a local guide/driver named Moses. He was great at finding all sorts of wildlife like elephants, lions, cheetahs, warthogs, and even a leopard and a rhino, and lining us up to get the perfect camera angle.
Kenya is a place where the people who run the game camps insist you don’t walk around during the early morning or in the evening hours without a guard. You aren’t allowed out of your tent at all during the night. They are so serious about this that after dinner there is a spotter outside the dining tent. Every time a couple finishes dinner and tries to walk back toward their tent alone, the spotter lights them up with a flashlight and one of the guards hustles over to lead them.
It is a place where the guards don’t always let you take the shortest route to and from your tent because there is a wild elephant of water buffalo on the path blocking the way.
It is a place where, on a nature hike on foot, we came across a wild bull elephant standing about 60 yards away. We knew it was a serious situation, because our local guide and the other local guard both turned toward it and froze, silent. We froze as well, but the non-local soldier with us kept talking until the guide told him to shut the heck up, so we could slowly and quietly sneak away. Afterward, the guide showed us the scar on his leg from when an elephant had stepped on it, breaking it before picking him up in its trunk and tossing him aside.
Kenya is a place where, one night, we heard an elephant rubbing up against the front of our tent, before it moved to the side and breathed just on the other side of the canvas from where my head lay on my pillow. Before it left, it broke the number sign off our tent, as well as the fence out front.
So this year during Sukkot I finally got that sense of impermanence I had been missing, the sense that anything could be around the next corner, and a feeling of gratitude for the safety and security I so often take for granted.
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September 18, 2013 | 1:00 am
Posted by Susan Esther Barnes
Yom Kippur last year was a mad rush. I went to services in the morning, dashed off to a retirement home to do a service for them, rushed over to the civic center to listen to a Q&A with Rabbi Doug Kahn of the JCRC followed by afternoon and concluding services, then to a restaurant for break-the-fast, only to collapse in bed at home before rising early to help build the synagogue's two sukkot at 6am.
It was too much to do, in too short a time. How is anyone supposed to engage in proper Yom Kippur reflection while rushing around like that? Part of it was caused by the fact that we have such a large congregation that we hold some concurrent services at the synagogue and the civic center, as well as some separate events at each location, but most of it was because of my own choices.
This year, it was different. I stayed at the synagogue all day. Yes, it meant I had to miss the healing service and the Q&A with Rabbi Kahn at the civic center, but it was well worth it.
After I helped to clean up the sanctuary following the morning service, I chatted with friends as families arrived for the children’s service. I sat in on the last part of the children’s service, and helped to clean up the sanctuary again.
Then, instead of rushing off for the healing service and the Q&A, I just sat outside the synagogue. I watched as the bustling crowds disbursed. I listened to a band practicing somewhere in the neighborhood. I eyed some almonds, presumably left by one of the kids attending the children’s service, abandoned on the bench nearby, and wondered how long it would take for the neighborhood birds to come eat them.
I chatted with the security guard, who’d gotten his job four months ago. He said, even though it was his birthday, this was his favorite assignment so far, because everyone here has been so friendly. He said at all his other assignments, people seem to be trying to avoid looking at him. In contrast, while guarding our synagogue, he experienced many people saying hello and thanking him for looking out for us.
I listened to the cars and the birds and the wind in the trees. Then, the musicians for the afternoon service started arriving, and I chatted with them, and other congregants as they arrived, until it was time to go back in for the service.
At the end of the service, we sang our way outside, where we did Havdalah and had the break-the-fast. I still waited for sundown before breaking my fast at a restaurant, and fell into bed exhausted afterward, but the next morning I didn’t have to arrive at the synagogue to start building the sukkot until 8am.
All in all, it was a much better way to spend Yom Kippur. It was much more restful, and allowed me the time I needed to slow down and to appreciate what was surrounding me. It was a beautiful island in time.
By the time you read this, my time of rest will be over. I will be, God willing, on my vacation, where I will be, appropriately, spending the holiday of Sukkot moving every two nights and sleeping in tents. As a result, I will not be posting anything next week, but I hope to report on my adventures the week after that.
May the new year bring you joy, rest, and peace.
September 11, 2013 | 1:00 am
Posted by Susan Esther Barnes
On Wednesday night last week, Congregation Rodef Sholom in San Rafael heard a powerful sermon by Juan Rodrigez. No, Mr. Rodriguez is not a rabbi. I have reason to believe he is not even Jewish. So what, you may ask, was he doing giving a sermon on Erev Rosh Hashanah, the start of the Jewish High Holy Days?
As Rabbi Michael Lezak explained, it all started at the end of April last year, when Venetia Valley School, across the street from the synagogue, received a bomb threat. The school was locked down. No children were allowed out, and no parents were allowed in. So when Rabbi Lezak arrived at work that day, he found a crowd of worried parents in the synagogue parking lot.
Thank God, it turned out there was no bomb and nobody was hurt. But it made Rabbi Lezak realize that even though he’d been working across the street from Venetia Valley School for ten years, he had never crossed the street to visit them. Later that day, after things calmed down, he walked over to the school’s office with a big bag of Hershey’s kisses, and promised them he would be back.
Thus began what we hope will become a strong, long term relationship between Congregation Rodef Sholom and Venetia Valley School. Sure, we had donated school supplies to them in the past, but that’s not the same as sitting down with the school staff and talking about common issues and solutions. As Rabbi Lezak and Principal Juan Rodriguez got to know each other, they discovered we both have a lot to gain by learning more about each other and working together.
So, on Erev Rosh Hashanah, Rabbi Lezak introduced us to Mr. Rodriguez, and he introduced Mr. Rodriguez to us. It was touching to see him wave to the crowded civic center auditorium, as many of us waved back at him. Then, he started speaking.
First, he told us about a girl in his school. One night, immigration officers came to her house, demanding to know the whereabouts of a man nobody in her home had ever heard of. After the officers became convinced that the man they were seeking wasn’t there, they instead took away the girl’s father.
The next night, the girl’s mother tried to get her to remove her backpack, so she could get ready for bed. The girl cried, and refused to take off the backpack. She said she needed to be ready, in case the men came back and took away her mother away, too. Despite counseling and repeated assurances, that little girl wore that backpack day and night for six months.
Next, Mr. Rodriguez told us about a brother and sister at the school. Their father has terminal stomach cancer, but he has no insurance. As a result, he has no pain medication. Every day, these two young children have to see their father suffering, in pain, as his condition worsens.
Last, we heard about community meetings that were held to discuss the traffic problem on our street. “I went to these meetings with the intent to try to do what was best for all the stakeholders,” Mr. Rodriguez told us, “and I assumed that’s what everyone else there was doing, too. But one evening, I explained how one proposed solution would have a negative impact on the education of the kids at our school. In response, one of the people at the meeting said, ‘What do we care? They’re not our kids.’”
It was a powerful message about fear, pain, and disrespect happening in our own community, right across the street. As Rabbi Lezak explained, that bomb threat was a shofar blast that reminded to us to open our eyes, to see what is happening around us, and to make sure we’re communicating with our neighbors. And, God willing, it was the start of what will turn out to be a beautiful relationship.
If you would like to make a donation to help kids like those Mr. Rodriquez spoke about, you may do so through the Venitia Valley Family Center.
According to their website, "The Venetia Valley Family Center is dedicated to helping support the parents and families of the Venetia Valley community to reduce any barriers to student success. The Family Center connects families to local resources – nutrition, housing, medical, dental, or vision care, health insurance access, counseling, tutoring, employment support, clothing, parenting education and leadership programs, English as a Second Language (ESL) classes, childcare, enrichment, extended learning programs, and more. Family Center staff provide advocacy and referrals for individual families, as well as offer a comprehensive family literacy program, including home-visits, parenting classes, literacy workshops, special events, volunteer training, and capacity-building leadership opportunities. The goals of the Venetia Valley Family Center are to empower families to become full partners in the education of their children and to support the long-term goals of children and their families."
September 4, 2013 | 1:00 am
Posted by Susan Esther Barnes
One of the things I like most about the High Holy Days is it is a time to seek and to grant forgiveness. We are told that, during this time, God grants forgiveness for sins against God, but that for sins of one person against another, God does not grant forgiveness until we have made peace with one another.
It’s such a wonderful reminder that we must seek out forgiveness from those we have wronged, and that we should also grant forgiveness to those who apologize sincerely to us (or even, perhaps, to those who do not apologize).
The trouble is, I’ve heard a lot of very bad apologies over the years. Celebrities, in particular, seem to be quite skilled at issuing statements that masquerade as apologies, but really aren’t.
Below are a couple of this year’s examples, from Parade.com:
After calling Sandra Fluke a prostitute and a slut simply because she takes birth control pills, Rush Limbaugh said, “My choice of words was not the best, and in the attempt to be humorous, I created a national stir. I sincerely apologize to Ms. Fluke for the insulting word choices.”
What’s wrong with this apology? First, he is not apologizing for saying disparaging things about Sandra Fluke. Rather, he is only apologizing for his “choice of words,” implying that it would have been perfectly okay for him to us different words to deliver a similar, demeaning message about her. Further, he says it was an “attempt to be humorous,” when anyone with any sense can tell you it isn’t humorous to verbally attack a person you don’t know.
At the end, he apologizes only for his “word choices,” never once saying anything like, “It was wrong of me to attack you in a public forum,” or, “I should never have assumed that I could discern anything about a person’s moral character based on their legal use of any prescription medication.”
Similarly, Angus T. Jones is quoted as saying, in an attempt at an apology, “I apologize if my remarks reflect me showing indifference to and disrespect of my colleagues and a lack of appreciation of the extraordinary opportunity of which I have been blessed. I never intended that.”
All he’s saying here is he’s sorry he might have been caught “showing indifference and disrespect” and a “lack of appreciation.” Any apology that contains the word “if” in it implies that the person thinks it’s likely they did nothing wrong – he doesn’t even seem to be sure whether or not the thing he’s theoretically apologizing for ever happened. And if it did, he claims he didn’t mean it.
It would have been better if he said something more like, “I’m sorry I said negative things about the show. It was wrong, and I apologize.” Regarding his “lack of appreciation,” he should have remained silent. It’s a red herring. What matters is he said negative things which he should not have said.
Below are some tips we can all follow in crafting a sincere apology:
Don’t imply anyone but you (the person apologizing) might be at fault. For example, don’t say, “I’m sorry your feelings were hurt.” The use of the passive voice implies the other person might be at fault for their own hurt feelings. Similarly, don’t say, “I’m sorry you took it that way,” or “I’m sorry you feel that way,” or anything else that avoids your own personal responsibility for what you said or did.
Simpler is often better. For instance, try, “I’m sorry I…” whatever it is you did. Then stop talking. For instance, “I’m sorry I said that to you,” or “I’m sorry I forgot today was our anniversary,” or even, “I’m so sorry I hurt you.”
The more you embellish, the more likely you’re going to say something to try to duck the blame. Remember, a real apology is all about taking responsibility for what happened. Trying to put the blame on someone else, or trying to explain the extenuating circumstances, or claiming you were just joking is not going to help. Just suck it up, apologize for what you said or did, and move on.
And remember, if you try three times to make a sincere apology to a person, and they still won’t forgive you, then you have done your part. God will forgive you even if the other person won’t. Because, as long as we have sincerely returned to the path of doing what is right, none of us should have to live in guilt.
August 28, 2013 | 1:00 am
Posted by Susan Esther Barnes
I make it a policy not to write about my work, and I try not to use my blog as a bully pulpit, but I’m frustrated and I just need to get this off my chest.
One of the least favorite things about my job is dealing with the United States Postal Service. No doubt about it, they do a great job delivering regular mail quickly and cheaply. But once you start to use their other services, you’re likely to run into confusion and frustration. Many of the things they do seem to be inconsistent and arbitrary. I could give lots of examples, but below is my current situation.
Earlier this year, we were doing a mailing for a client. Included in the mailing was a Business Reply Mail envelope for the people receiving the mail to respond without having to pay for the postage. The company I work for does this sort of thing several times a year. It’s nothing new to us. We know how it’s supposed to be done.
We could do a mailing and pay the regular Business Reply Mail rate on each piece of mail that is returned, but with a little extra work, we can pay less than half that rate, using the Qualified Business Reply Mail Rate (QBRM). We filled out the requisite form, submitted the requisite samples, and received the approval for the QBRM rate at the end of January.
We sent the mail out on April 15, and the responses started coming back shortly thereafter. Although we had received approval for the QBRM rate more than two months in advance, I discovered the San Mateo USPS office where the mail was being delivered was charging our account the higher unqualified rate.
I tried calling the San Mateo USPS multiple times over several days. Each time I got one of three results: Either I got a fast busy signal, the phone rang without anyone picking it up until it eventually disconnected me, or I got a recorded message that played and then disconnected me.
Frustrated, I wrote a letter to the San Mateo post office, explaining the situation. I mailed it using the USPS. I waited a week or so, but got no response, so I started trying to call the San Mateo post office again, with similar results, until, one day in May, I finally got through to someone.
I spoke with Person A (all people in this story shall remain anonymous), who processed the Business Reply Mail. He denied ever receiving my letter, so I explained the situation to him. He asked me for proof that we had received approval for the QBRM rate. I faxed him the proof that day.
Five days later, they started charging us the correct rate. Unfortunately, by that time we had been charged the incorrect higher rate for a month, and most of the return mail from that project had already been processed at that higher rate. Naturally, I asked for a refund, and Person A agreed to give us the refund. He said it would post on our account on Monday, May 20.
The refund did not appear on our account on Monday. In fact, by Thursday, the refund still had not posted to the account, so I called and spoke with Person B, who said he was the supervisor for Person A. Person B said he would make sure the refund posted to our account and that he would call me by the following Tuesday, May 28 at 10 am to confirm it was done.
I did not receive a follow up call from Person B, nor did the credit appear on our account. I tried calling again several times throughout June, but I had the same trouble as before: either the phone rang with no answer, I got a fast bust signal, or I got a recording that played and then disconnected me. When I did get finally through, I was told Person A was on vacation for a month and would handle it when he got back. Still, we received no refund.
Finally, in July, I sent another letter to the San Mateo Post Office, detailing the situation, including a spreadsheet which calculated the amount of the refund due. Since they had claimed that my previous letter had not been received, I sent this one via USPS, with a return receipt requested.
Eleven days later, although I had received the signed return receipt showing my letter had been delivered, I had not received a response, so I filed a complaint through the online USPS complaint form. A nice lady called and told me that she couldn’t help me through the online system. For this kind of complaint, she said, I had to deal with the local post office directly. I told her my trouble contacting them, and she said she would call them to ask them to get in touch with me. Within two days of my filing out the online complaint, it was closed as “Resolved” even though my complaint was not resolved.
A few days later, I finally received a call from Person B, who had been contacted by the online service folks. He said that because I had not sent him the copy of the form approving the QBRM rate until May, they could not refund the entire amount. I explained that I should not have had to send it to them; every other time I have done this for the past six years, the correct amount has been charged without me having to send the USPS proof that the USPS had approved the QBRM rate. I also reminded him that I would have sent in the proof sooner if I had been able to get through on the phone, or if they had responded to my first letter.
Person B said he would speak to his supervisor. Later that day he called back and said, sorry, they couldn’t give the full refund. So I asked to speak to his supervisor, person C. He gave me her phone number. I left her a message, and a week later she got back to me. Person C said it wasn’t up to her; it was up to Person D, and that he wouldn’t be in until the next day, July 31.
I tried calling Person D multiple times. I left a message on July 31, wasn’t able to get through for several days, and left another message on August 6. On August 7 Person D called back. He did not allow me to explain the situation to him, but said he would look into it and call me back. He said the only thing that he wanted to confirm was whether the appropriate person had, indeed, approved the QBRM rate and when it was approved.
On August 20 I still had not heard back from person D, so I called and left him a message. On August 22, and August 27, I called and left him additional messages. I’m still waiting for his response, for a refund we were promised over three months ago.
This is why I hate dealing with the USPS. I have my doubts whether I will be able to make peace with them properly before Rosh Hashanah.
August 21, 2013 | 1:00 am
Posted by Susan Esther Barnes
The High Holy Days are rapidly approaching, and with it the annual appeal by Mazon to take whatever money we would have spent on Yom Kippur for food if we were not fasting, and donate it to help feed people who are hungry many other days of the year.
That’s a great start, but many synagogues, including the one I attend, also collect food for their local food bank during the High Holy Days. Some people go through their pantry, looking for food items that are reaching their expiration date or which have been sitting around for a while. Others go to the store to buy new items just for the purpose of donation.
The timing is particularly good for the local food banks, which usually get the bulk of their donations in the weeks surrounding Thanksgiving and Christmas. By the time the High Holy Days roll around, many of them are getting low on key items. The donations from these synagogue food drives are often what allow them to stretch their resources until the Thanksgiving donations start rolling in.
Of course, it feels good to be helping out by donating food to others who need it more than we do. But there’s an even better way to participate in this mitzvah which will make this annual tradition even more of a win-win situation for everyone involved.
As Californians, we know there will be another big earthquake. We don’t know when it’s coming, but we know it is coming. There are other disasters, natural and otherwise, that may also impact us, including floods, wildfires, or – God forbid – terrorist acts. Any one of these calamities, if large enough, could overwhelm the infrastructure where we live, leaving us to fend for ourselves for several days.
As a result, we all know that we should have an emergency supply of food and water at home. Although we all know this is a good idea, many of us never get around to gathering such an emergency supply. And even those of us who, one way or the other, become motivated enough to follow through and purchase emergency food supplies may forget about them once they’re purchased, allowing the food items to age and then expire, rendering them useless.
Here is how we can combine the High Holy Day food drive with the old, forgotten emergency food supply issue, to come up with a win-win situation.
First, if you haven’t done so yet (or if your emergency food supply has expired or expiring items in it), buy new food to make sure you and your family has enough non-perishable items to last you for three to five days. Keep in mind that you’ll want a variety of food. You’re not going to want to eat the same old chili for three meals a day for a week. Remember, this stuff is usually good for at least two to three years.
Then, every year when the High Holy Days food drive comes up, go through your emergency supplies and replace everything that is going to expire in the coming year. Donate the replaced food to the High Holy Day food drive. Of course, please don’t hesitate to supplement your donations with additional purchases, if you can afford to do so.
In this way, not only do the food banks get substantial donations during this critical period, but you also are assured that your emergency food supply is regularly refreshed and up-to-date. I also like the idea that the donations we make will be food we like to eat ourselves, rather than whatever off-brand happens to be on sale in September or October. Just because these folks may be down on their luck doesn’t mean they don’t deserve the good stuff.
Remember, the High Holy Days are just around the corner, so don’t wait. Update those earthquake supplies now, and at the same time, help to feed those less fortunate than you. Start the new year with a mitzvah.
August 14, 2013 | 1:00 am
Posted by Susan Esther Barnes
I was honored to have brunch last Sunday morning with Rabbi Rick Jacobs, the President of the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ), along with other leaders from my congregation. I’m going to write about what he said, but first I’m going to write about how he said it.
In the room were several round tables, with a lectern at the front. I was happy to see Rabbi Jacobs completely ignore the lectern. Lecterns serve to create space, both physically and otherwise, between the speaker and the listeners. They also create a more formal atmosphere than might otherwise be present.
Instead of walking to the front of the room to speak, Rabbi Jacobs simply stood up at the table where he had eaten his brunch. But he didn’t stay there. Instead, he spoke for a while from between his table and the one next to it, then moved between two other tables while he continued to speak, then moved again, so that by the time he had finished, he had completed a circuit of the room.
It may not sound like a big deal, but I found it to be impressive. It meant that, before he was done, he had stood near to every single table. It signaled not only informality, but it showed a desire to treat everyone equally. It showed he was not, literally or figuratively, separating himself from us.
After the event was officially over, he made time for us to speak with him one-on-one. Even when he was informed that his ride to the airport was waiting, he did not use it as an excuse to duck out. Rather, he stayed to speak with those who wanted to speak with him.
It’s true; actions speak louder than words. These actions spoke volumes about his values and his character. These things, more than anything he could have said, made me feel proud to have him at the head of the Reform movement. But he did say some impressive things, as well.
Rabbi Jacobs’ message was that our movement is a continuation of what Judaism has always done. It is about growing with the times. As he so eloquently put it, it is about reinventing an eternal tradition.
He spoke about a conversation he had with Rabbi Krinsky of Chabad, who asked him, “Why do you do what you do? You don’t care about kashrut, you don’t care about Shabbat, you don’t care about mitzvot. So what are you trying to achieve?”
Rabbi Jacobs gave the perfect answer. He said, “I do care about kashrut. I do care about Shabbat. I do care about mitzvot. I just care about them in a different way than you do. My job is the same as yours – to bring people to authenticity and a deeper spiritual practice.” Brilliantly put.
He said the URJ is working on the following three priorities:
1. Catalyzing Congregational Change. This doesn’t mean telling congregations what to do. He said it means paying attention, being smart about what needs to change, and bringing tools to congregations to help them realize that change.
2. Expanding Our Reach Beyond the Walls of Synagogues. He spoke about how, in the 50’s and 60’s, everyone joined a synagogue, temple or church. These days, there are many more unaffiliated people. We can’t just sit back and wait for them to show up. We need to go meet them where they are, and help them to have meaningful Jewish experiences outside of the synagogue.
3. Engaging the Next Generation. He said the problem is when we try to tackle this challenge by asking, “How do we make 20 and 30 year old people more like us?” We need to realize they are not like us, and engage them in ways they want to be engaged. He says when they get back from Birthright trips a spark has been lit in them, but they don’t know what to do next. We need to help them with options.
It was an inspiring event, and I’m looking forward to seeing the progress on these priorities in the years to come.
August 7, 2013 | 1:00 am
Posted by Susan Esther Barnes
A friend queried on Facebook, “Why oh why can't BART be clean??? The Embarcadero station smells like a latrine!” It didn’t take long for someone to respond, “Because people are disgusting and have peed all over the stairs.”
It’s so sad the first thing that springs to people’s mind is that subway stations, bus stops, and other public places smell like urine because people are disgusting. Not only does it insult perfect strangers, it completely ignores the root problem.
When tackling this question, I start with the idea that all people were created b’tzelem elohim, in the image of God. God is not disgusting. People are not disgusting. Face it, no sane person wakes up in the morning and thinks, “What disgusting thing can I do today?”
“But,” you may argue, “It is disgusting to urinate in a public place like that. Why don’t they use a toilet like everyone else?”
Let’s take a good look at that question. Why don’t they use a toilet? If no sane person does disgusting things on purpose, maybe some of the people who do it do, in fact, have mental problems. Which raises the question, why are they out on the street? Why are they not being cared for in a way and in a place that they aren’t out wandering the streets, urinating in public?
But they’re not all mentally ill. I would bet most of them aren’t. And they have perfectly good reasons to urinate in public places.
For one thing, many public places don’t have public toilets. Many subway stations have “public” toilets only in places where paying customers are allowed to enter. Many people can’t afford the price of a ticket to get in.
Many people have no place in which to shelter at night. They have no toilet at home they can use, because they have no home. Most places with toilets, like restaurants, are closed at night, and many establishments won’t let people who appear to be homeless use their toilets even when they are open.
The reason people urinate in public places is my fault, and yours. It is because we are not doing enough to provide shelter and mental health care to those who need it. It is because we are not exerting enough pressure on our public servants to ensure there are enough facilities available to everyone who needs a bed, a shower, or even something as simple as a toilet. It’s because we allow people who are mentally ill to fend for themselves on the streets.
Why do bus stops smell like urine? Because you and I would rather think badly of our fellow human beings than take a good, hard look at the problem, and then do what is necessary to fix it.