Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Wow. Just... wow.

First, read this article.

Then read the comment copied below, which was left on the article by someone calling himself J_R_K, who starts by quoting the article:

“There’s a lot of people that are just victims of circumstance and they didn’t go homeless because they’re lazy or... it could be a divorce, one thing leads to another and the man sells his boat, his home, everything, and all of a sudden he finds out he’s got no money. There’s a lot of good people that are homeless.”

The following is a true story. But, given that it's kind of ... what should I call it... a .. well.. let's just say that if I thought anyone reading it knew who I really am, I wouldn't be telling it here :o) It's a little lengthy, so, don't read it if you don't have a mind to.

I got out of the army shortly after a divorce. My final pay voucher said "no pay due" because Uncle Sam took back the BAQ money the wife had collected. I had to walk off post. I hit the highway and hitchhiked with no home to go to. Finally found a minimum wage job, then another one. I worked 16 hours a day, but when I got the first two paychecks, together they were not enough to pay a months rent and utility deposit in advance. I ended up facing the winter of 78-79 with nothing but a beat up old car. Christmas Eve, 1978, both places where I worked we closed. I spent the day sitting in the car with no gas, watching ice buildup on the windows. No cigarettes, no coffee, nothing to eat, no where to go or be.

Shortly after noon, on Christmas day, still sitting in the car, I turned on the radio and Paul Harvey was on, talking about a girl (I missed her name and location) who, when she was 16, wanted to marry. But, she had two older sisters, and tradition said that if she married before them, they were officially old maids. So her mom and dad refused her permission to marry. She threatened to elope, so they locked her up in the "root cellar"... "As time went on, both her parents passed away. But her two sisters kept her locked up in the cellar. They taunted her, mocked her, laughed at her. They gave her scraps to eat and no clothing. When authorities found her last week, she was bent over at the waste. She was naked and emaciated. Her fingernails and toenails were 6 inches long. Her hair was dragging the ground. She had leprosy. She was totally insane. She was 45 years old." ... that's probably not exact, but I can still hear Paul Harvey talk about her as if it were yesterday.

I looked out my car window at the ice and snow, and I knew that whatever my condition, I was 29 years on the sane side of better off than that woman.

The only thing I had to read was a Bible someone had given me. I decided, it was something to do, so I opened it up. I wouldn't recommend this process for Bible Study, but I opened it up and read the first thing my eyes fell upon, It said: "Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?

Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you."

That same night, an old black man in Topeka, Ks crawled into a school bus to get out of the cold and froze to death. Shortly after that, another older black man who happened to hang out in all the time a liquor store next to the place where I worked my evening job took notice of my situation, came to me and offered me an old two room shack (3 if you count the tiny bathroom) to live in. He paid the utility deposit himself, asked for no deposit, and when I was late with the first months rent, he never asked me where it was.

I have since done ok. I worked both jobs until I could find one that paid well enough to meet the bills by it's self. I got married again, had kids, today I have great kids and grandkids. I am retired now. I learned a couple of things that winter. I learned that when a man has absolutely nothing left in life accept his ability to face the world with no shame in his eyes, there's someone out there who'll take even that away from him. Often, it's a woman. But I also learned this: There are many blessings in this life, if we are sharp enough to see them. There is much to be grateful for, no matter our condition. To live in self-pity and ingratitude for those blessings we do receive is like putting one foot in front of the other, headed in a direction that leads to failure in this life and hell in the next. Just a couple of other things I learned... they say "life isn't fair".. but that's not true. Sooner or later, it knocks us all on our backsides. Sooner or later, we all need help... and there are people out there who provide that help, sometimes from the most unexpected of sources. Who would have thought that an alcoholic, cigar smoking old black man hanging out in a liquor store all day every day, playing cards with men just like himself would offer shelter, at his own expense, to a young white man who just wasn't cutting it.

“There’s a lot of people that are just victims of circumstance and they didn’t go homeless because they’re lazy or … it could be a divorce, one thing leads to another and the man sells his boat, his home, everything, and all of a sudden he finds out he’s got no money. There’s a lot of good people that are homeless.”

Amen to that, Thomas. It may not always be a mistake to judge on the basis of appearance, but when it is a mistake, it's a huge mistake.

Merry Christmas, everyone.


Same to you, J_R_K. Same to you.


  1. I appreciate the writers point. It has a lot of merit. However as someone who grew up only a few years behind him (judging by his 78 time frame comment) I would say he is picturing today's world through yesterdays glasses.

    I was in almost that writers exact situation in the mid 80's and had to live out of my car for a while and work two jobs etc. If a young White Man tried that today he would...

    A. Be arrested for living out of his car and/or made to move every few hours gas or no gas.
    B. Only be offered jobs with mandatory overtime that always overlap the other job.
    C. Be refused jobs because he has no permanent address nor phone number.
    D. Harassed by the cops every time they saw his car.
    E. Never find the better paying job because he was unlucky enough to be born after Affirmative Action went full bore along with open borders.
    F. Had to work four jobs rather than two just to make up for the decline in spending power of the dollar since 1980, and still not cover the gap.

    Far too many people who lived through hardship in earlier times fail to see how today circumstances are much much worse than they were back then. Whenever then was. In the Mid 80's I could walk away from a job or circumstance, hitch hike across the country and start over with never a doubt or worry and only the clothes on my back. It just isn't that way in 2014 and I feel earnest sorrow for any young Man who would be forced to try.

    1. I am fortunate to live in a different world than PioneerPreppy. In my world, I am surrounded by young men (and women) living in very similar circumstances - although we are a more rural than urban environment. They work as day laborers or with multiple jobs, support themselves and sometimes families. They are honest, so hard working, funny, intelligent, GOOD GOOD people. I am in a position to help them sometimes, and have gotten to know some of them well.

      I suspect I might have a different experience if I still lived in Oakland.

    2. Kate: What you said - Ditto here.......

  2. Oh my goodness.

    I feel like the proverbial man who complained about having no shoes until he met a man with no feet.

    Lately, I've been praying for a sign that there is still something to be grateful for. Sometimes the gauntlets we face beat us to a pulp. My prayer has been answered in a most obvious way. If the man with no feet can still be grateful, then so can I!

    I'm getting my little Gratitude journal out right now and writing down three things.

    Just Me

  3. "Seek first the Kingdom and all else will follow....."

    Thanks Patrice and Merry Christmas.

  4. Is it reality? Most homeless are drug/alcohol additcs or mentally ill. Most people who find themselves suddenly thrust int bad times quickly take advantage of help and pull themselves out of it and do not stay homeless. So to try to imply that some large percentage of homeless people are just like you and me but simply down on their luck is BS. How do you help someone who takes hard drugs or spends every cent they get on alcohol? Give them money and you might as well give them their drugs or alcohol. Give them a job and they will abandon their responsibilities in favor ofdrugs and alcohol. To ignore this basic fact and think you can help them by giving them free stuff is naive and in fact does more harm then good. Sure, if you know someone who simply through no fault of their own is down on their luck then help them but don't conflate that with the hard core homeless. You cannot "fix" them no matter how compassionate you feel or what the season is. All the efforts by well meaning charities to "help" them merely encourage them.

    1. In my experience in working with homeless ministries, I do have to agree that drugs, and mental illness is a big problem. I stopped giving cash to people for this reason, and would buy supplies for the homeless that came to our ministry. Eventually I heard that was a bad idea too as many would take the goods we gave them, take it to a store for a cash refund (apparently they can do that without a receipt at certain stores), and then use the money for drugs. I got to the point where I would just bring food on the spot...nothing shelf worthy that could be resold, but only fresh food that would need to be consumed soon after.

      It was very disheartening to learn all that from the time I volunteered, but all that said I just try to be discerning and I will still give to them even if it's just a simple meal.

    2. Very true - for most. But not all - so I look at each case on its own merit......I don't know who has the "light" within and so will give if moved to or not give if not moved to.

    3. If God moves me to give and cash is what I have, I give cash. I can't fix the world but sometimes I can help a stranger. If they use it poorly, I still gave with good intentions. Since I don't work with the homeless, it is not my job to help them. However, my sister, as a mental health professional does work with them and she helps them in different ways. We are not all called in the same way, but God can use all of us.

  5. thanks for the reminder that all these things will be added.
    deb h.

  6. I remember stories about my Grandmother during the Great Depression. Grandpa always had a good job. They lived near the railroad tracks where hobos used to frequent. Everyday there were men knocking at the back door asking for good. Grandma would cook Sunday dinners every day and no man would go away hungry.
    As I live alone, I do not care to invite strangers over. I attend a church where there is a lot of poverty. Those of us with jobs often buy 2 items of food, 1 for us and 1 for them. We also donate clothing and pay bills for people who cannot afford basic expenses. That is how I can help now. Should we find a man living in a car in our parking lot on a cold night, the church would take the responsibility on after checking with the police first to see if he had drugs or guns. We feel that is what God has called us to do.

  7. Certainly there are people like Thomas - victim of circumstances. But it's difficult to know how to truly help without knowing the person. Read an interesting post a few years ago by a Christian Canadian writer, proposing that poverty has a great deal more to deal with relationships than money. It's an interesting perspective.



  8. "I learned that when a man has absolutely nothing left in life accept his ability to face the world with no shame in his eyes, there's someone out there who'll take even that away from him. Often, it's a woman." Yea...I have a BIG problem with this statement, unless I'm reading this wrong. Forgive me if I am, but if I'm not, someone has women issues! Talk about a pity party!

  9. There but for the Grace of God.....

    A. McSp

  10. Merry Christmas ..... Looking at all the above comments .... God have mercy on us please.

    Let me point out ..... If God treated YOU like you treat them, NOW be brutally honest ....
    I too am not "perfect" and I too don't do as much as I could in many ways .... When I was knocking down the 6 fig income .... I helped as I could - could I have done more ... Sure, was I taken advantage of YES I was ... But I tried and now poor (leaving that life - and yes a "Woman" had lots to do with it (after 22 years of marriage She ....)
    Anyways ..... God bless you all .... It's Christmas
    (may God treat you better than you treat others .... Park that new Cadillac and volunteer somewhere people need you .... it won't cost you a dime)

    " T "

    1. Wow....some men are wusses. Always putting the blame on the woman. No wonder women's lib was created! Not enough real men to take responsibility, so somebody had to do it!

  11. Wonderful story...thank you, and my God bless you and yours. Merry Christmas.