On a day when I have just read a letter of despair from a friend and former colleague who is bankrupt from paying for her sister’s cancer treatment, I walk into my fancy Westside coffee place. As I digest the words of a fellow writer, begging for an act of mercy to keep from becoming homeless, I wonder, what can I do? Charity begins at home; my grandfather’s words echo in my head. I could send her a few hundred bucks. I’ve blown more at the outlet mall.
And now I’m in line ordering my hot Gibraltar and seeded baguette with raspberry jam. In front of me in line, two boys. Or men. I cannot really tell their age but they are tall and blondish with designer clothes and expensive tennis shoes. The one pulls a gold American Express card from his Goyard wallet and a third friend appears, adds a drink to his order. They discuss their plans for the day: going into Beverly Hills, shopping at Gucci, lunch at a trendy restaurant. A fourth one enters and tries to cut the line but the boy/man with the gold card points to me. The barista thanks him for following the rules.
Something about them reminds me of the Trump boys. Maybe it’s the audacity of the blondest one to sit on the stool I’ve clearly reserved with my laptop. “Oh, sorry,” he says when I give him a look. I am close to their mother’s age and white; they show me respect. Their actual mothers may be closer to my friend’s age. She is a 60-plus award-winning former news producer who cannot find a job in her chosen field, or any field. She has no kids; just one-eyed cats she takes in because they are less adoptable. And her sister’s two cats. These man-boys most definitely come from households with purebred dogs. Are they in college? Out of college? Do they have jobs? Their allowance could probably support my single friend and her cats for a year.
Where do these privileged young males and my bankrupt Boomer friend intersect? With me, of course. I am the fulcrum today.
I imagine writing my friend a letter. I am so sorry about the death of your sister. I’m sorry that you got suckered by the health care system in this country, one where oncologists set their own prices for treatments that only delay the inevitable. You should have used the money on a trip to Hawaii, so the two of you could enjoy her last days on earth together. Because that story, where you pay retail for the latest rat poison to kill the bad cells in your sister’s body, that was only going to end one way. Here are a few hundred dollars to ease the pain. Of course, it’s only a temporary salve. And I, like you, being of the belief that it is better to teach a man to fish than give him one stinky plate of Tilapia, feel powerless to truly help. What can I possibly teach you? You’ve been a writer longer than I have been out of braces. You pioneered sports writing for women. You used to write stories beyond journalism, creative short stories. God knows you are funny. Would you try that again? Do I have the right to share your plight and start a Go Fund Me or whatever those things are that raise money online from random strangers?
Here are some random strangers right in front of me. I imagine asking the kid to add a pound of coffee beans to his gold card for my friend. And while he’s at it, he can go on Amazon Fresh and send her some groceries. My kids would do that much for someone in need.
I write my friend a letter. It looks very little like the above. I will send her money. It’s easy to judge someone else’s situation. Perhaps those man-boys are not as shallow as I think. They haven’t even had the opportunity to become hedge fund managers or real estate developers yet. They could be the next Warren Buffet. I sure hope so.