Local Entitlement and Used Toilet Paper

The effects of entitlement are eating away my land.

So, recently the community center in my small rural village raised a flag.  The director made it known that they were running short of toilet paper.  Personal items do not qualify under food stamps, and our local people caught in poverty needed some help. Equipped with an army of students we organized a toilet paper drive.  Week 1: door hangers with instructions to leave tp out one week later. Week 2: drive around and collect it.  Pretty simple, right?

So today my wife, 4 year old daughter, and I drove around and picked up bags of generosity, filled with tp.  While other caravans boasted of greater success, we were struck by a desert of participation.  2 houses in each 30 actually got the tp out on their porches.  My daughter kept asking, “Why isn’t there more?” “People sometimes care more about their own bottoms, darling,” we told her.  And it is true.

At 5.40, with a mountain of tp, a couple hundred dollar’s worth, I get a phone call.  145 East Main. An elderly lady called to let us know we missed her house.  “Keith, this lady is really old,” said my assistant. So, after our community meal, I take Claire and drive over.  I get up to the door. No tp.  I drive around back.  No tp.  When I try the front door, a hand written note greets me,

“Ring bell. If I don’t come, POUND on the door.  Give me time to come.”

This lady clearly gets fed up with making the marathon to her door just after a busy citizen rushes off thinking she’s not home.  She’s always home.

I wait.  In 55 seconds, I see her shadow growing.  She turns the corner from the kitchen, she grunts her walker to the door and opens.  With a laryngeal tremor, she begins to explain.  “Some……body……..al……ready…….came.  I’m………so………sorry………..I………caused………you……another………….trip.”  I’m thinking, “Lady, you’re sorry?! I’m sorry! I am the one that made you get up.  You donated toilet paper today when half the town couldn’t care less.”

As I drove away, half in pity, it came over me: the golden care and concern for neighbor is on a downward spiral. And here, shut in her home is wisdom, humility, and empathy incarnate.  Will the desert of compassion end for our land when her generation fades?  Will we regain a concern for our neighbors, visit shut ins, and take an extra trip to the dollar store to donate tp?  I hope so.  But the spirit of entitlement feels in our day, pardon my speech, a lot like used toilet paper.