Recently, we realized we had lost three birth certificates somehow.
I am absolutely almost forty seven percent positive that they are somewhere in the house, but I knew for sure they wouldn’t turn up until I got new ones, so I embarked on a journey to the Bureau of Vital Records.
I walked into the nondescript, ugly building and I could feel my heart rate increasing exponentially. As I heard the door close behind me, I have to admit I was having second thoughts. I have this irrational fear of drab carpet and sickening blue-gray painted walls that have never felt the touch of soap and water on them.
The walls were adorned with old, wrinkled posters, ripped 8/12 x 11 hastily printed papers that oozed disdain and contempt at the customers of the establishment. One said, “We will be happy to help you when you are done with your cell phone conversation.”
I felt my not-so-inner sassy self rising in protest. Perhaps the people who come to this establishment are on their cell phones because they know what they are getting into and they want to have some kind of contact with the outside world.
Just in case.
Just in case they can’t get out, they feel like if they keep contact, keep holding on, that someone might be able to rescue them in the event that time and space simultaneously collapse in a heap under the pressure of bureaucratic red tape and a honed sense of indifference that could at any moment turn the sun into a cold mass of ice.
I also had to fill out shot exemption forms, not because I don’t believe in some vaccines, but because I believe in taking my time with them.
So, I also got informed that because I am doing this, I am costing the state of Utah $25 per child in the event that my child infects the student body of their school with some vaccine preventable disease, or in the event that my child’s not-as-vaccinated self causes stress to the school nurse.
“I homeschool,” I said to the woman at the counter, “so this doesn’t make sense to me. We aren’t going to cost the state of Utah anything because we don’t take advantage of the government school system. This paper says the $25 is to cover the cost of school nurses and inconvenience to the school. So, shouldn’t that fee be waived for me?”
She looked at me, the indifference reaching new levels of apathy,
“That’s not my department.”
Oh. Well, that’s fine then. It’s not her department. As if that is the end of that.
I then added,
“We are vaccinated for most things, it’s just that I want to go slower than the recommended schedule.” To which she replied,
“I’m not here to judge you.” Then, “It will still be $25.”
Ugh. I tried to examine my feelings as my hands started shaking as I completed the forms and tried not to touch anything.
I wondered if I could ask them to give me $25 to cover the cost of whatever flu or disease I was going to catch spending time in the building, but I realized that probably wasn’t anyone’s department.
I sat down gingerly, and looked around. It was so depressing. Here on the wall in dirty, scratched up plexiglass were forlorn looking signs for birth, death, stillbirth, and marriage certificates.
Then I realized.
I wasn’t nervous, I was angry.
And with the anger, there was a little terror.
It’s the terror you feel when you realize that something is very, very wrong and you feel powerless to stop it.
I wanted to scream at the heartlessness of it all. How dare they? How dare anyone diminish and trivialize the recording of human existence to this drab, dirty place? Why, there should be beauty on the walls and bright colors and vivid–everything!
This is life. The record of souls who have journeyed here.
Our glorious entrances to the planet earth, our deaths–tragic or well fought or lonely or magnificent–marriages that conquered dragons, children too pure to take even a breath…all here.
All around me.
There should be music.
There should be…something.
I escaped the jaws of the Office of Vital Records, after they picked my pocket and perhaps stole a bit of my soul. I wondered as I left, what could I possibly do to stop this kind of thing–this evil of indifference, this careless attitude that the greatest, most momentous events of mortality had been relegated to this, simply because they needed to be counted.
How ironic that the act of counting each life and death resulted in the feeling of it counting for nothing at all.
I wanted to shout to the people all around me, all of whom seemed oblivious,
“Every life matters and every life is worth the whole value of the universe, of infinite universes!”
And I felt I sort of had to warn myself to never, ever become indifferent when the mass of humanity and suffering and life and death seems too much. To never, ever, when faced with the overwhelming needs of humanity, to say, “That’s not my department.”
And to always remember that dealing with the whole of humanity starts with dealing with one. And letting that one be counted.
We are capable of so much more than we believe. Do you know why? Because we are worth the whole of heaven and earth and stars and galaxies and nebulas and–forever. You are. I am. Every single person who ever lived and who ever was even a thought in the mind of heaven is. We are capable of loving and caring and counting each life.
I shake my fist and stomp my feet at the Bureau of Vital Statistics in defiance of treating the vital with such disdain. In defiance I promise to care about every human being and the glory that they are.
So there! Will you join me?