Mice

Mice  by Kaze Gadway

    “Can you help me?” She huddles in her blanket as she approaches my car.

     “The mice were really bad last night. I have so many bites. I think some are infected.” She shows me the bites on her shoulders and face.

     I take her to the hospital where she can get emergency treatment. She talks incessantly we we drive there. “My family was disgusted at me. They treated me like a child who was perpetually bad. I had to get out of there. I’ve been on the street for four years but I’ve never felt this unsafe.”

     “Because of the mice?” I ask.

     “No. I can cope with the bites. There are more people on the streets now. I don’t know everyone and some men look at me strangely now. People are really jumpy. I don’t know what has happen but the streets don’t seem so safe anymore. I spend a lot of time in the library trying to avoid people.”

     She falls silent. “I don’t know why I am telling you this. Thanks for helping me out.”

     “Not a problem.” I hand her a blue card that has all the organizations and their addresses on it that helps the homeless. She carefully puts it away in her backpack.

     She doesn’t want me to come in with her so we say goodbye.

     I wish I could do more. She is so young.

 

Not Changing

Not Changing   by Kaze

     “What’s up?” I ask the man who just got up from sleeping under a tree.

     He yawns and stretches his arms. “Not much. I saw my social worker yesterday and she just talked smack.”

     “What did she want?” I ask.

     He laughs. “What they all want.  They want me to change my baaaaad ways.”

     “Are any of them ways you want to change?” I ask.

     “That’s a good question,” he says. “I don’t like being called lazy or stupid. But there are things that I would like to change. I can’t seem to get a job. Everyone tells me I have a bad attitude but I just don’t know what to say when someone asks me “why” I want a job. Duh…because I need it.”

     “What do you think the person hiring you wants to hear?” I ask.

     “I don’t know. Maybe they want me to tell them that working for him is soooo important. But I can’t do that.”

     “The way it probably will work is that you will change your attitude when you want a job bad enough. Change has to come when you want it not when someone else wants it. That is a basic human right,” I say.

     “Thanks,” he says. “I’ll think about it.” He takes a few steps away and turns back. “I really will think about it.”

     He leaves and I think about the changes I know I should do but haven’t yet.

 

Doors by Kaze

Open and Close Doors

     Several of us were watching an old movie when the youth character cries out “No one will give me a chance.”

     Hank snorts, “That’s so phony. We get lots of chances; we just don’t stick it out.

     We turn the T.V. down to talk.  “What do you mean?” I ask.

     “Schools offer us this or that for our future but something stops us.  We don’t have a birth certificate or my mother never fills out the forms or we don’t have a car to take us or something,” he says.

     I talk about my consulting days when companies consistently complain of their staff being unable to implement goals for which they have so much passion.  “To make something happen,” I say, “you need to be a part of a system that supports you in getting things done.  Sometimes it is the initial paperwork and often it is just trusting that your effort will get you somewhere.  And sometimes it is because the whole process is so unfamiliar that you don’t know how to swim through it.

     Greg nods.  “You don’t think that we can get things done if we don’t have support?”

     I hesitate. “That is a hard question. In my experience, many complex issues pop up when a door opens. Making a decision on what to do has always been foundational to getting things done. The ‘how’ often slows us down or even stops us. When we do not have support, the smallest roadblock can destroy our decision. Many of you want a good job, or to stop drinking or to handle your anger. You want this passionately yet you get stopped. If no one supports your decision, sometimes you drown in unfamiliar territory. You don’t know what to expect or how to move forward.”

     Greg revolves his baseball cap around his head. “I remember when I tried to get a job when I turned sixteen. After applying at five different places, I wanted to quit. I talked to Jack about how impossible everything was. He punched me on the arm a few times and asked me if I wanted to be a quitter. I tried again the next day and actually got a job washing dishes by the end of the day. I guess I just needed someone on my side to tell me what I already knew.  Is that what you mean?”

     Elaine asks, “So how do we get support if we don’t have it?”

     “It begins with your initial decision to do something different,” I say. “From the beginning, you need to look at what makes you uncomfortable about ‘how’ you accomplish your decision. When you can anticipate your road blocks, you can begin to figure out what kind of support you need. Sometimes it is just finding out how to give a good interview or how to fill out the paperwork without hesitation. It is not easy but knowing ‘how’ to get something done is as important as ‘what’ you want. Does this make sense?”

     Greg grins at me. “You have a lot of work teaching us ‘how’ to do things.”

     I grin back and sigh internally. So many things yet to teach.

Blessings by Kae

An excerpt from my book Stamp It Holy.

     Blessing:  Receiving the blessings of unearned gifts change us.

     “One night, five of us drive around Holbrook at night to give blankets to street people. As we approach one group, a Native man thanks us for caring. Toby asks, ‘We are a Native youth group who is trying to stay out of trouble. Can you pray for us?’ The Native immediately starts praying for us in Navajo. When he finishes, we all silently get into the van. Sophie speaks slowly, ‘That is the most moving prayer I’ve ever heard and I didn’t even understand it. I will never look at a homeless man the same way again.’”

 

It’s Everywhere

It’s Everywhere  by Kaze  

She limps along dragging her suitcase behind her.

“Are you okay?” I ask.

She sobs a little. “No, I was just sleeping on a bench when they told me to move along. I wasn’t hurting anyone. They twisted my arm a little.”

 “I’m sorry. Not everyone is nice or kind to those without money,” I say.

“Ha!” she snorts. “Make that never. I would settle for people just ignoring me. Being nice goes way beyond what I expect.”

“I can give you a ride to get some free health care, if you like,” I say. I point to my car.

She looks at me for a long time. “Thanks Honey, I can make it. Thanks.” She hobbles off.

I ache for her situation. I don’t understand people who think we are valued by having money or a house.

No one should be so resigned . No one should accept devaluation from others.

I go back to find more people, more organizations, more contacts, more opportunities so that some on the street can make it.It is a matter of one step at a time. And getting others involved.

 

 

Grafting a Culture

Grafting a Culture  by Kaze

     “I hate it when they yell at me to ‘get a job,’ he says. “They act like it is easy to be hired. I have been trying for six months. I’m not lazy.”

     Cultures don’t always graft to new cultures. When I surround myself with those who live without shelter or consistent food, my mind is busy with possible ways that they can get jobs, move into houses, live a more comfortable life.

     So many things that have been tried don’t work. A house is found only to discover that some are afraid of being alone or they miss the community they had on the street.

     Jobs are given only to find that not everyone fits into a rigid eight hour schedule in exchange for money.

     Food is provided yet it brings no pleasure and doesn’t seem worth the task of waiting in long lines.

     In the larger culture, those of average lives also are finding that it is not so easy to maintain a house or a mortgage.  And there are those who quit their jobs many times because money or work does not give them purpose.  And God knows, the obesity epidemic that pervades our culture is not due to lack of knowledge or availability of nutritious and appropriate food.

     In many ways we live in a sick culture that is trying to graft our views on the poorer culture. And it is not working.

     More and more people are living by trade rather than cash. Many are searching for work that fulfills but not necessarily pays. And food is a constant topic among us.

     Perhaps we should (both the privileged and the poor) should be looking for a new kind of culture rather than trying a graft.

When I Die by Kaze

When I Die by Kaze Gadway

     In a casual conversation on the street, one of the women says: “When I die, I want people to remember that I laughed a lot.” Others agree with her and several others talk about when they die.

     I contrast that to the many conversations I have had with those of a higher economic bracket who say “If I die…” although death is usually avoided as a conversation altogether.

     The American avoidance of death is very strange. Perhaps that is why I like working on the streets. It’s the real deal. People do suffer and die. It is all around us. It’s in our face.

     I find some people do not like me to talk about aging. It’s another one of those taboo subjects for those who have a lot to lose or maybe they don’t feel they have lived their lives yet.

     Someone asks me what my greatest achievement has been. An early level in my journey consisted of being better at teaching, at community projects, at curriculum, at organization, and at writing, etc. I liked that people complimented me on what I had done. I was “in to” prestige and achievements. So her question jolted me. That is not where I’m “at,” anymore. My answer is “My greatest achievement is the day I realized that prestige and achievements did not validate me.” I enjoy being with people who stay real. I live when I keep it simple, when I let things happen, when I let go of control.

     It invigorates  me to be among those who know we suffer, grow old, and die. It is a major part of our journey.