Not Worth It by Kaze
“They promised me some shoes and a new backpack if I came back the next morning,” Greg recounts about someone at the back door of some kind of a settlement house. “The next morning I went back and they wouldn’t open the door. They told me to get lost. At first I was mad, and then I decided that it wasn’t worth it so I got over it. I guess people believe that the promise they make to us just doesn’t count. He’s the one who has to live with it. I’m used to it.”
Nat quips: “Maybe he was a politician.”
We all laugh and I think about how far down in society is the distrust of promises of those in power.
Someone on radio commented that she was an agnostic, not in religion, but in politics. She no longer believed in any party, any politician, any form of government promises.
Those in power don’t keep promises—has this become the bedrock of our society?
I look into myself to remember just why keeping promises have always been a sign that I have integrity and integrity is not something I will betray.
I also think how much we are dependent upon agencies and institution having integrity.
The Post Office keeps putting someone else’s mail with a different box number in my box. I can’t trust that my mail gets to me. What is horrible is that I shrug my shoulders and think that is about average for our society.
I wonder what I do trust anymore.
Bruises by Kaze
“Whoa,” I say. “Sorry about your face. Have you seen someone?”
The young man lights up with a smile and says “I’m okay. I got kicked in the face by the owner of the store in front of the sidewalk I slept on.”
“You know, I don’t get it why owners like the whiners and the ones who work the system but hate those of us who are looking for jobs or just trying to survive without begging for charity. There was this one dude who whined about being kicked out of his house and having no place to stay and I know that he cadges money all day long from tourist and blows it on booze. The owner pats him on the back and lets him sleep in front of his store. I come along and don’t beg or whimper and he kicks me in the face while I am sleeping.”
I’ve seen this too. Those who have dignity are treated worse than those who pretend humbleness. Those who are truly devastated and worn down are picked on without mercy. If it were not for compassion among the street people, those who worn down would not last long.
There are many kinds of homeless. The ones the tourists see are usually those who are working the system and trying to make people feel sorry for them. Most of the ones I talk with are protecting the weak and clothing themselves with as much dignity as they can.
I am sure you can see the parallel in “housed” society.
Fairness by Kaze Gadway
“I guess what bothers me the most is that nothing seems fair anymore. When I had a job, a lot of small stuff happened but enough people around me believed in being fair.
But now, the people at the shelter, at the food places, police, and business owners all seem to assume that I have no rights and they don’t have to be fair,” Trey tells me.
Others shake their heads at this. “I don’t get it. Why does being without a job make me someone who can be shamed?”
“Not all of us are like that,” I mumble, feeling his shame deeply.
“I know,” he says. “Thanks. Don’t worry about it.”
I walk away thinking hard about how many years I have looked away from people who are disturbed or poor. It has taken a long time to become aware of just how much I have denied people fundamental respect.
Unexpected by Kaze
It is raining slightly and still cold from the night.
“So, what’s new?” a young adult woman asks me as she uncovers herself from multiple blankets on the street.
Surprised at her unexpected question, I stutter “Do you need another blanket?”
She laughs and says “I’m okay. Some of these other people may need something.”
I love it when I am surprised at the caring of street people for each other. It fills me with energy and hope for the future even when I see so many people sleeping on the sidewalk, needing so much in terms of basic survival gear.
It gives me hope.
Too Fast by Kaze
A man comes up behind me and I jump.
“Sorry,” I say. “You came up too fast. Old people jump you know.
We laugh and he says, “I’ll tell you what’s too fast. My being on the streets.”
He pauses and then continues, “I had the same job behind the counter of a hardware
store for nine years. I got up early every day to be on time. I had a TV and cell phone and was thinking of getting some management training. Then the store when out of business and I had to give up the car payments, then utilities, and finally my apartment. I hung on for two months but couldn’t find another job. Before I know it I put my stuff at a friend’s house and I hit the streets. Two months and I am out here standing in line for food. It was that fast. And I don’t know what I did wrong. I didn’t get drunk or gamble or throw my money away. I was making it fine.”
Belligerently, he looks me in the face and says “Tell me what I did wrong.”
Everyone is nodding their heads. Then they look at me and I don’t have an answer.
“I don’t know why it happens so fast but there are going to be a lot more people on the street for that very reason. People can make good choices and bad things can still happen,” I say. “And people who make poor decisions can also end up here on the streets. I worry about seniors, and one parent families and those who are mentally ill. Banding together as a community seems to be the only way we survive in houses or on the streets.”
“Yeah,” he says. “I’ve found some good people on the streets and we help each other out. But none of us know how to get out of here.”
On my way home, the question keeps turning over in my head, “What if good decisions aren’t enough? What will I do?”
Hole by Kaze
Although most of the homeless in Albuquerque are white males, I do encounter others. For many of the Natives and Latinos, families are a major support and New Mexico does not have a large African American and Asian American population.
I was particularly sad to see Charlie who experienced some dementia and a lot of neglect.
He grabs my sleeves and whispers, “ I just got out of prison. They don’t like Natives. They put me in the hole. That’s where we started. We came out of the hole, we came out of the hole and felt the sun
He starts crying. “I can’t remember the rest of the story but my grandmother knows it.” He can’t go on.
His friend from Hawaii pats him on the shoulder. “That’s okay. You are still whole.”
He sits down next to his friend. “I took care of him in prison ‘cause they pick on him.
They pick on him here too but I can keep them away.”
I hand them some socks and a snack and they go lie back down.
I assumed that Charlie was trying to tell the Creation story of the Natives emerging from the hole in the ground from one world to the present one. That is the way I have heard the story. But his friend gave a deeper meaning to wholeness in being a friend..
Since then, hole/wholeness both have meaning for me. I have crawled out of holes to a different opportunity. I have gone from hole to wholeness. Both are important to my spirit path.
A Piece of Forever by Kaze Gadway
e.e. cummings “listen my children, i’ll give you a treasure of tiniest world, a piece of forever.” I love this description of what happens in contemplation. A slice of time, a momentary glance, a brooding hesitation and the eternal shines through and we are reminded once again of the beauty, the awesomeness, the timelessness, the preciousness of our lives and others. And it happens all the time.
It’s a common story. “My stepdad told me to get out. He said that since I was sixteen I could make it on the streets. He had enough trouble with no job and three other small kids to care for.” So I left. I tried sleeping at the train station but men kept coming and bothering me. Finally some street moms found me and have been protecting me. I can’t believe that I am so lucky.
My eyes tear up as I think of the incredible opportunity this young girl has been given. It is a piece of forever that has entered our time and has allowed this child to be protected for a while. Too many children out there have no such protection.