Tag Archives: homeless

Forbidden Questions

thepast1My friends and I were discussing the social gospel. I am friends with people who dive whole-heartily into social justice, but the homeless situation isn’t changing. The entitlement attitude is getting more aggressive.

Another friend says poverty is more than a physical lack. There’s poverty in spirit. Because I don’t serve with the homeless, I can’t write on that, but I will say this:

How come, when a Christian questions a ministry like that, people get offended, defensive, and even go so far as to boycott or call another Christian a non-Christian? These are forbidden questions one doesn’t ask unless among close friends in whispers. You risk people being mean to you because you asked. So people like us watch the problem get worse.

Some stories come out that encourage me, like a man looking for work to get out of his homelessness. I want to help that man. Or how people in a church help out a widow. Or how someone turns away from a lesbian lifestyle to live for Christ. Or how someone gets a free bike so he could get to his job.

What if everyone who gave financial help required the person asking for it to put in “community service,” like helping someone else with a physical need or assigning them to work so many hours in some kind of volunteer position?

So many beautiful places, like San Diego and Denver, are becoming a safety hazard and a garbage heap. Pan handlers dot the beach front in San Diego. Downtown Denver, with it’s beautiful architecture, has hundreds of homeless. The bathrooms in Balboa Park are filled with trash, chained shut and unusable. When people talk about banning homeless, it isn’t because they are cold-hearted, but the homeless have caused a situation. The laws and culture protect them. The charity programs and welfare have made the life ideal. Many refuse to leave that lifestyle.

There are needs out in our world, and I can’t help but wonder if we could change the work ethic in our country by allowing people to have this discussion and talk about possible solutions, instead of getting angry, shouting them to silence, and worsening the poverty situation. Of course, I’m not talking about the mentally challenged, and I’m not saying abandon someone entirely at all.

I like what Benjamin Franklin said (emphasis mine):

I am for doing good to the poor, but I differ in opinion of the means. I think the best way of doing good to the poor, is not making them easy in poverty, but leading or driving them out of it. In my youth I travelled much, and I observed in different countries, that the more public provisions were made for the poor, the less they provided for themselves, and of course became poorer. And, on the contrary, the less was done for them, the more they did for themselves, and became richer.”

Share your thoughts and your stories. How can we change the work ethic in America? How can we fight poverty?

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A Creative Work Ethic

Every day he repairs the road in Honduras and asks for money. As soon as the car passes that gave him money, he digs up the pothole again. Another car comes and he asks for money as he “repairs” the road, filling the pothole–the same pothole. In many ways, Honduras’ creative work ethic is not any different from America. 

When we were in San Diego, the homeless put in a lot of effort into creative help signs. People were posing next to those signs. I wonder what would happen if these same homeless put in an equal amount of effort into job hunting as they do into thinking of these brilliant signs? 

In preparation for Honduras, I read how not to give money to people on the streets of Honduras because only the organizations that spent time with the Hondurans knew their real needs. Oftentimes, the money you give to those on the streets can be used for drugs. This is not any different than America. 

If you give money to someone holding a sign, you aren’t helping them. A lot of them in our area especially have alcohol and drug issues. The best thing you can do is to give money to the organizations that have established relationships with the homeless, or those in deep need, because they know what helps and doesn’t help (or at least, most of the time)

America does seem to be headed towards the fate of Honduras. As government control and corruption rises, inflation is causing everything but our wages to increase. Businesses hire people in Arizona at less the rate the same job in the same company pays in another state. As government regulation increases, so does the cost on the small business which increases the cost on the consumer. Our debt as a country is skyrocketing. We can’t afford to support our own country much less the thousands of children invading our border. 

I fear that our country is headed towards the fate of Honduras. If we don’t get a head on our shoulders and turn around, we may all be living in shantys on the side of the road, scrubbing our laundry on pilas because we can no longer afford a washing machine or the electricity to run it.

One of THEM

Making of Latte art of cappuccino on Coffee Ri...
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Billy.

I breathed that word in my mind. People would stare at me funny if I spoke it aloud. They’d look over their hot cup of something wake-me-up and wonder if I was one of them. And by them, I mean not the regulars whose clothes often sport a label far above my pay. It’s the old man who spreads his blanket behind the coffee shop and says thank you to me when I hand him a cup of coffee—black. No sugar. No cream. His breath smells like the street after it’s been tarred. He’s one of them. I don’t know his name. He doesn’t know his name. I call him Billy.

“Cappuccino.” I ordered and handed the frowning clerk behind the counter a wrinkled ten-dollar bill. The clerk wasn’t one of them. The apron fit snugly over her waist. Her hair sported expensive highlights and she plucked her eyebrows.

Mama said I should get my eyebrows plucked. Eyebrows on a woman, she said, were supposed to look dainty. I have manly eyebrows. A giggle escaped my lips. The clerk looked quizzically at me.

“Sorry.” I nodded.

In the year since I walked through these doors that clerk has never said much. I’m one of them; an outcast like Billy. I waited in an overstuffed chair and rested my chin in my hand as I stared at the wall of laptops in front of me. Intense eyes darted back and forth. A symphony of clicks added a lighter note to the screeching wail of the espresso machine. Some people read keeping their eyes on their books and ear buds in their ears.

“Cappuccino!”

I hear my drink called and walk to the crowded counter, but it’s gone. “Where’s my drink?”

The barista squinted at me. “What was it?”

“You just called it a minute ago. It’s a Cappuccino.”

“Oh. I saw someone pick it up.”

“Who?” So much for a relaxing few hours!

“A blonde.” He shrugged.

I was one of them. My slacks came from Kohls. My shirt from the Goodwill, from their fancy rack—you know the one (or maybe you don’t). I didn’t wear 9-inch heels. Comfortable flats from Payless were more my style. The blonde probably wore those 9-inch heels from Nordstroms.

“Well, I still need my drink.” And I sat down again.

Billy.

I went to the bored female clerk. She had no one in line.

“Could you get me a small black coffee to go?”

“$2.00.” She frowned.

The change fell out of a hole in my wallet and splattered all over the counter. The laptop people stopped clinking.

“Sorry.” My hands shook.

The clerk didn’t smile.

I counted out $2 in quarters and dimes, then swept the rest into my palm depositing it into my pocket.

“Cappuccino!”

I practically ran stepping in front of a man in a business suit. With my Cappuccino and regular coffee in hand, I walked outside and turned left, going around the side of the building to the back.

My face fell. I felt like a fool standing in the sunlight holding two cups of coffee—a fancy for me and a plain for Billy. His blanket and few belongings were abandoned. No one noticed. Billy was gone. Why would anyone notice?

“How do you know him?”A man’s voice interrupted my thoughts.

I hated his interruption. He walked quietly like a cat.

The man looked like a million dollars. He probably had a million dollars. Was that Armani? “He’s a friend. I usually bring him coffee the same time every day. He’s gone.”

The man had a cup of coffee in his hands, too. Black. No cream. Presumably, no sugar either. “I bring him coffee, too. I’m a little earlier today than usual.”

His eyes reminded me of fall—an earthy brown full of compassion. He had white teeth and a clear complexion. Character was etched in the fine lines around his eyes. They were laugh lines. He smiled. “Maybe you can join me—right here?”

To my surprise, we sat on Billy’s blanket for hours; me shining in the presence of someone noticeably accepted in this crowd and him, sitting with one of them—me who lives in an apartment not far from here who drives a 1980 Chevrolet hatchback.

Billy never returned.

One of THEM was submitted in February to the Women on Writing Flash Fiction Contest for Winter, 2011. It beat 200 other stories in the first round of judging, but failed to make it to the Top 10. Congratulations to those talented writers who made it to the top 10! You’ve earned it!