Cheryl enjoys writing articles that inspire the reader to think about issues.
The skunk speaks
One day in early April 2019 I noticed the smell of a skunk as I was driving on a certain street. Later, when walking through this same area with my grandchildren, we saw a dead skunk on the sidewalk. It was in front of an auto upholstery business and no one seemed to care that this deceased mammal was on the ground. I'm always the one to call and report power outages, downed power lines, or stop signs that have been knocked over, but this time I decided to wait. I wanted to find out if anyone else would report this smelly animal and have it removed. Time went on and the polecat was still in its spot. April turned into May and the scent subsided but the carcass was not removed. I realized this animal who was silent in death was speaking volumes.
I wondered why the owners and or workers of the auto upholstery establishment did not have the skunk moved? Why were their patrons and police who patrolled the area just going about their business as if this disgusting sight was not right out in front of everyone who walked or drove through the area? July came and with it extreme heat. I did not find myself in the area where the skunk's dead body resided for most of the month. When at last I traveled that way, I saw that nothing was left but the skin. It was lying flat on the ground as if it were a thin piece of carpet. By the end of the month, the color looked like burned grass and had shriveled up somewhat.
Things don't change until they change
I began to ponder the hundreds of men, and women, who walked or drove that way each day. Not one of them thought to make a simple phone call that would get what was left of the skunk off the sidewalk. Soon August arrived and the skin that used to be a skunk continued to be ignored. When I shared this with my oldest son, he asked me what I expected, based on the locale. The skunk was in a working-class area, mixed with deep pockets of poverty. Individuals who are thinking about where their next meal is coming from, or are running trying not to miss a bus, have the weight of the world on their shoulders and could care less about a dead skunk.
The employees of the upholstery company are probably barely making enough money to survive and their minds are elsewhere. The sight and stench of the polecat, just blended in with the other scenery and smells of that neck of the woods. It was not that those who passed this animal were being lax, they simply were worn down by the cares of life. I believe this might explain rundown homes in impoverished neighborhoods, with several broken down vehicles in the yard. With a lack of money and a feeling of hopelessness comes the inability to focus on what others so easily comprehend. I recall once when my husband was out of work and we were struggling his older brother commented that our vehicle needed washing. He had worked for the General Electric company for 35 years at that time, had never missed a paycheck or a meal. He kept his vehicles spotless because he had the time, money, and mindset to do so. My husband and I were concerned about feeding our children and meeting the mortgage, so a shiny car was the least of our worries. When our situation changed, then so did our behavior. Things really cannot change for the disenfranchised, until there is a change. An update to this story is on January 30, 2020, nine months later, what's left of the skunk is still there.
Too broke to pay attention
I was in a church service years ago, where a preacher made a statement as a joke, but to this day I realize it has validity. He said that some people were too broke to pay attention. Those who stepped over the skunk, or drove past it are broken in one way or another. It could be emotional, physical, and or financial. The cares of the world have overwhelmed them to the point where they were not really paying attention, and or just did not care. Those who live in this part of town also may be used to the city officials and police not moving in a timely manner so they did not bother to report the dead skunk. I recall when a teenage acquaintance of my youngest son was shot just a few blocks from my grandmother's home. We arrived at the scene to find the young man crumpled on the ground near the curb. People were asking when the body would be removed and the answer was when the coroner arrived.
We went home, but I later returned to the grim scene about two hours later. The child's body was still in the street. Because it was a crime scene, his mother could not touch him and stood nearby crying. The next day I was told that it took the corner five hours to show up and remove the body. Neighbors complained that if this had happened in a more affluent neighborhood, the young man would never have remained at the curb that long. When people experience this type of injustice on a regular basis, they expect the worst, and unfortunately many times they receive it.
There are people, in this world who dot every I and cross each T. Their lawns are meticulously manicured, and they pick up even the smallest piece of paper that may soil their well-kept yard. Such individuals would have made a phone call to the animal control department within 60 seconds of seeing that dead skunk. It probably would not have been on the ground but a few hours, and certainly not been allowed to rot away for 9 months. That one dead skunk spoke volumes, and the fact that it continued to reside on the sidewalk tells an incredible tale. The skunk's skin remained until a street cleaner went by and it was swept away during a general cleaning. I don't believe the people who manned the truck ever saw it.
In the eye of the beholder
All of life, much like beauty is in the eye of the beholder therefore not everyone will understand my reasoning regarding why no one had the skunk removed from the sidewalk. Those reading this hub who can take a vacation to relieve stress, and don't live with the fear of something being repossessed, or being evicted or foreclosed upon, cannot comprehend what I suggest. It nevertheless remains true. Those who live for months, years, and decades under the stress of poverty and lack often can see no further than how they will obtain their next meal. They could be living with roaches, mice, rats, backed-up toilets, appliances, and heat that does not work. and dealing with slumlords. To these individuals, a dead skunk is simply par for the course. This is why as Dionne Warwick sang, they simply walk on by.
© 2019 Cheryl E Preston
Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on August 08, 2019:
Cheryl, this is an excellent article that really speaks to the mindset of poor people, who do really know where their next meal is coming from. This is a heartbreaking reality. This is a profound reality that you show us in this article.