I just couldn’t find my rhythm.
I recently had the opportunity to visit Philadelphia. I love Philly, and not just for the cheese-steaks. Old Philly is a beautiful blend of our nation’s history intermingled with the best modern society has to offer. You can stroll along the same Market Street of which Benjamin Franklin wrote while stopping at the Hard Rock Cafe for a bite to eat.
While in Philly I decided to continue my own personal battle of the bulge with a quick jog over to the Museum of Art. Why the Museum of Art? It was the perfect distance from the hotel and, of course, that is where Rocky climbed all those stairs. The view from the top of the stairs was spectacular, providing a cityscape at night of the amazing skyline which is made even better with buildings illuminated by patriotic lighting of red, white, and blue.
It was an OK run except that I could never get in a rhythm.
The traffic certainly didn’t help. Running in a city is never easy, but I quickly discovered that Philly drivers are even less courteous than the ones with which I routinely battle back in Massachusetts. Clearly the most important part of a car in Philly is the horn, for I have never heard so many in such a short period of time. Crosswalks are there to suggest drivers should slow down, if they wish. Cars, trucks, buses, and as I personally learned, Federal Express Vans have the right of way on Philadelphia streets.
The people certainly didn’t help. Don’t get me wrong, the sidewalk pedestrians were just going about their business. There are just so many people on the sidewalks at almost any given time. Add in the sidewalk eateries, and the steady thumping of jogging becomes an exercise in acceleration and deceleration.
The smoke certainly didn’t help. One of the drawbacks of smoking prohibitions inside public buildings is that the smokers now congregate on sidewalks throughout the city. If second-hand smoke is anywhere near as unhealthy as has been reported, then a jog through Philly cannot be completed for health reasons. A regular jogger in Philadelphia would need help from a Nicotine Patch to kick this exercise habit.
It wasn’t the traffic, the people, nor the smoke, however, that kept me out of my rhythm. Instead it was the heartbreaking view of the city’s homeless scattered along my course that kept throwing me off. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t anything they did that chased away my rhythmic pounding, it was just my thoughts of their plight that kept me from hitting my stride. It would take the most callous of hearts to not be affected by the sight of human beings using lawn space and park benches as mattresses.
More than once I was approached for money only to send the panhandler politely on his way. I have never believed in giving to people on the street. I once saw a report on a television news program that some people look at panhandling as a career, sometimes pulling in more than $60,000 per year. While that sounds disturbing it is not why I don’t give to people on the street. Instead, it is the smattering of opened alcohol containers found alongside many of the park dwellers. I just never felt comfortable knowing that I may be contributing toward their next meal but also perhaps their next drink. I have had friends who have criticized me for not caring, but that’s not true either. I like to give to my church and other organizations that can find people a hot meal, a warm bed, and any other help that may be needed.
As is often the case, my mind then drifted to politics. My jog allowed me the time to really reflect how politics, more specifically policy, can make a difference in people’s lives. I know it is no secret that I am of a conservative mindset. Many of my liberal friends call me just another heartless Republican, which isn’t true. I am officially an unenrolled voter. I was once told that the difference between Democrats and Republicans can be summed up very simply (translation: oversimplification); Democrats believe they are successful when more people rely on the government in their daily lives and Republicans believe they are successful when fewer people rely on government help. I don’t believe either of these ideologies are bad, but they are very different.
I sprinted up the stairs of the Museum of Art just as Rocky had so many years ago. At the top, after a period of recovery, I met a police officer from Philadelphia. He was standing at the top of the stairs, looking out over the city he helps protect, with two other men. Since each had a Harley, a conversation was quickly initiated by yours truly. Once I discovered the man was a local cop, I asked about the number of homeless people I had encountered. He explained to me that due to the current economic meltdown, many of the programs put in place to help these people had been eliminated. The result is, of course, these people get dumped out on the street with no place else to go. After further conversation, picture taking, and an invitation to ride next time I am in the area, I started my trek back. I couldn’t, however, get the simplified definitions of our political parties out of my head.
Democrats with their many programs or Republicans with their belief in self-reliance; which better handles the homeless problem over the long term? I have ideas but I want to hear yours. Post your comments below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I won’t ask you to jog with me, but I will ask you to exercise your mind. After all, sometimes politics is like jogging in Philly…
I just can’t seem to find my rhythm.