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Saturday, November 23, 2013

Simpler than it looks?

A couple of years ago I wrote a story based on an actual event.
At the time, we knew a guy who was homeless. He'd hang out with the rest of the 'Disney gang', We'd feed him occasionally... let him crash on a couch sometimes, but our sympathy and finances only went so far. We could barely look after ourselves. This wasn't cruelty, in fact, we were trying to be compassionate, or as sympathetic as 20 somethings can be, anyway.
So here I sat in a booth across from Steve or Mike (20+ years and I forget his name.) at a Circle K, sipping cheap coffee, trying to warm up from the Florida cold snap. (Yes, they do happen occasionally.) On cold winter nights Steve would beg to sleep on a couch or in the back seat of one of our cars. He often cleaned out freezers in exchange for shelter from the wind and elements.
That night I bought him some crappy coffee, (for which he was grateful!) I'd been doing some thinking on his situation. Most notably what would I do in his shoes. So we sat and came up with a plan. A strategy to get him off the streets. To my knowledge it worked.
How do I know that? First: I don't recall seeing Steve after that night. Second: I received a phone call from Steve's sister a few days before I was going to move out of my apartment. She wanted to thank me for helping Steve get back on his feet.
Years later I wrote a story based on those events. That short missive is sitting on our family computer hard drive,which is on my workbench need of a new motherboard and CPU. There is also a thumb drive in which I back up all my writing on. If I really dug deep, I could find the story.
Several things brought those memories to the surface. We're experiencing a pre-Thanksgiving cold snap, we have a house guest who we are helping get back on his feet, and I read an article about how easily it is to become homeless.
While I don't agree with everything in the article, there were more things I found myself agreeing with.
For instance, things cost less when you're rich. Think about how much you pay in rent, then ask a home owner what their mortgage payment is.
Want further proof? Last year my family went on vacation. We rented a car. With a credit card, the vehicle would have cost 500.00. Unfortunately my card expired the week before we were to begin our vacation and the new one hadn't arrived. No card? The rental price nearly doubled, almost scuttling our vacation before it began. I still had to borrow money to get gas for the trip home.
So when I see a homeless person begging for change on the street, I have a little sympathy... but not that much. There is no cure all... no panacea. Each situation is different. Every person is different. In my experience a person can become homeless very easily through bad luck, say a tornado hits your house... to series of bad choices, a fight with your roommate gets you evicted. Things will happen... Life happens. The question is: how will you deal with it? Most people deal with it quickly. Friends and family to fall back on. Sure, you swallow a bit of ego and pride, but you work through it and move on. A percentage of homeless don't have friends or family to rely on, some of them simply give up. At it's core, that's what it boils down to: the willpower to go on and not give up the struggle for survival.
Long ago I made my choice never to give up. To go down fighting if necessary. There is a part of me that believes having to struggle is what makes life interesting.
If you have a home and can keep a roof over your head, then you are blessed. Wanna rack up some extra karma? Perhaps I should put it another way. Do you want to help your fellow man and get a warm fuzzy feeling inside? Volunteer at a homeless shelter. If circumstances permit, perhaps you should consider taking one person and give them a hand up. By that I mean if you trust them, let them bunk in the spare bedroom or on the couch. Make it clear this is not permanent, but to help them get back on their feet. That's different than giving them a hand out. Lay down the rules and make a plan to get them on their feet as quickly as possible. Above all else, they have to want to rejoin the race. No one can do that for them, not even you. If they don't want to change, then there is nothing you can do to change them.    

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