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How often are we just clueless?

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On a recent trip home from Arizona, I grabbed a side road and slipped through Zion National Park.

It had been years.

And as Lynn Arave's story here says, it bears the names of holy places.

Leaving, I passed dozens of lovely dwellings and outlet stores. But moving on down toward the desert, the gloss of high-end living soon faded. Before reaching rock bottom, I found myself among several homes that, well, "needed some work."

The wonderland of lovely homes had drifted into poverty. And I wondered, "Why don't those at the top do more to help those at the bottom? Why don't the 'haves' try to share a little more with the 'have nots?' "

Now, let's cut to a supermarket in Centerville.

It's late, but I've decided to drop by and pick up some Gatorade. Inside, I see numbers taped to the floor, and I'm told when the bell sounds, I should find a number and stand on it. If my number is drawn, I'll get a full bag of groceries.

The bell sounds, and I find myself on a number next to couple who look like they just blew in from the Oklahoma dust bowl. He's missing teeth. She's missing hair. They look as forlorn as souls from a Dickens novel.

The night manager draws the winning number.

It's mine.

I'm as happy as a canary. I pump my fist, shake a few hands. Then I take by treasure and head off to my car.

About halfway home, I suddenly suspect all the checkers back at the market are saying to each other: "Why didn't he do a little more to help those who needed help? Why didn't he just give those groceries to the couple next to him? Why didn't Mr. Have share a little more with the Have Nots?' "

And I knew the reason.

I would have. If I'd been half awake.

I wasn't done in by greed, gluttony or any of the other seven deadly sins.

I was guilty of the eighth deadly sin — cluelessness.

I simply didn't allow myself to see the situation around me.

I was, in a word, self-contented.

Being oblivious to the world around us makes life a whole lot easier to live.

When we're too embarrassed to look at the feet of those who need shoes or the mouths of those who need dental work, we sidestep responsibility.

When people in those beautiful homes near Zion Park motor past the shacks, they probably never see them, just as I walked away from a starving couple with my arms full of groceries.

They belonged to another world — a world alien from my own. I could look right at them and not see them.

They were made of glass.

In the end, I decided we don't just need a new way of behaving.

We need a new way of seeing.

If the world is to change for the better, we will need to open more than our hearts and pocketbooks.

First, we need to open our eyes. And sometimes that takes more courage than anything else.

e-mail: jerjohn@desnews.com