Sunday, October 24, 2010

Senator McConnell, Meet Your Neighbors

Dear Senator (much to my regret) McConnell:

Even though this is dated, someone brought it to my attention today so I'm bringing it to yours. Now that you've vowed to do nothing in the Senate, and your candidate, Rand Paul is such an embarrassment you are hiding from sight, you might have time to go back and revisit some earlier decisions. Maybe you can even pull your nose out of the air, walk the streets of Louisville, meet some of the people I've met here, and grow a conscience.

Here are a few who I will never forget. If they survived the devastation of the Bush years and the Republican Party obstructionism so far in the Obama Administration, you might start on and around Broadway. That's where I met most of them. Maybe ride the bus from home to your office, I'm sure you'll see them, or others just like them.

Reverend Stanton - You'd surely have to love this man. Well, maybe not. Most people would.

The alcove seemed a strange location for sorting laundry, but who was I to judge this man? He wasn't blocking the entrance or hurting anything. In fact, his sweet smile was a nicer welcome than I usually received from the security guard.

"Good morning," I said as I passed him to open the door.

"That it is," he replied. "God bless you, dear."

"And you." The door closed behind me. He was out of my line of vision as I stood to wait for the elevator, but not out of my mind.

Another employee joined me before the car arrived. "Where's security? Did you see the bum outside the door?"

It was difficult to honestly answer her question. I had seen the man, but didn't want to call him a bum. "He's a pleasant man," I said.

The elevator arrived and she continued her rant as we rode up together. "I'm complaining. We don't need bums out there blocking the door and begging every time we come or go."

"He did neither when I came through," I reported. "Said good morning and blessed me. Did he ask you for money?"

"No, I didn't give him the chance."

Grateful for my third floor exit, I wished her a good day and headed for my office. When I opened the door, I found my coworkers huddled around our frantic receptionist. "I'm calling the police," she exclaimed. "He has no business out there."

"The man in the alcove?" I asked. "Did he do something wrong?"

"He's loitering," a secretary said.

"He smells bad and he's crazy," the bookkeeper added.

The receptionist picked up the phone and I went out the door and down the stairs. "Have you had breakfast yet?" I asked the man.

He continued to sort clothes into two stacks, darks on one side and light on the other. I say light because he only had one white sweatshirt to go with the three dark items.

"Not yet," he answered. "I'm planning out my day now. Gotta get the laundry done so I'll be ready when they call." He moved the darks to the right and the white to the left. "VA's making room for me to have my surgery. Gonna call when they have a bed available."

"Sir, I have a strange favor to ask. Will you go eat breakfast for me?"

"Reverend," he said proudly. "Reverend Stanton. Army chaplain."

"Reverend Stanton, Miller's cafeteria is two blocks away. I'd give anything to run over for scrambled eggs and a bagel, but I'm already running late for work. Can I talk you into going there to eat for me?" I held three dollars out to him. "Please?"

"Gave up my place last week," he said, ignoring my money and my request. "They keep you forever at the VA, you know. No sense wasting rent money while I'm in the hospital."

"Reverend, you have to move from this spot before the police come. Some employees in the building are uncomfortable with a stranger on the premises. I'm sorry."

Reverend Stanton gathered his laundry, draping one item at a time over his arm until all four were settled. He used his other hand to hold onto the wall and struggle to his feet. When he turned to face me, he looked at my money but made no attempt to take it.

"Knee replacement. Was supposed to just pray and counsel like my first tour. Only reason I re-upped for the second one was to pray with those guys who had been there too long. Ended up getting my knee blown out." He smiled through foggy eyes. "But I can't complain. God brought me home alive."

"Then take this money as a token of my appreciation for what you did for your country," I encouraged.

He patted the clothes with his right hand. "Would you mind if I used your money for the laundry instead of breakfast? If I eat, it won't do anything for your hungry."

I opened my purse and took out another five. "Here, have breakfast and do the laundry. You can't take dirty clothes to the VA hospital."

He stuck the money in his pocket and blessed me a few more times before limping away. I watched until he crossed at the corner, hoping he'd find a friendlier alcove in which to wait for his call from the VA hospital.

He Never Did Like Rice

It was warm, so I sat outside, to eat my lunch in the sun
I met a man who'd lost his way, and didn't know any one
He swallowed his pride, avoided my eyes,
and in a tiny voice, shared with me his plight

My stomach's churnin', feet are burnin', and my heart cries
He nodded his head, self-consciously said, he hadn't eaten in nights
I offered to share my meal, and without thinking twice
He said thanks, you're awfully nice, but I never did like rice

He looked so sad standing there, I offered him a smile
Tried to show I truly cared, before he walked another mile
I didn't have a penny to spare, but I tried to be nice
Said I had enough to share, but he still didn't like rice

I see him nearly every day, on corners here and there
I still hear him ask, have you a dollar to spare
I always say a little prayer, please help him through the night
Let him know how much I care, even if he won't eat rice

He ages faster than he should, from sleeping on the street
Carries along a stick of wood, to aid his crippled feet
I'd help the man, if I could, his stomach pays the price
no matter how hungry he feels, he simply won't eat rice

Could be rice was all he had when he was in Hanoi
Could be hunger isn't so bad, compared to life without joy
Or maybe choice matters more when it's the only thing left in life
So he treasures the freedom - to voice his distaste for rice

After you think about the vets for a few days, I'll introduce you to some other homeless people.



  1. I know a bunch of homeless people in Lexington. One in particular was sexually abused as a child while in the custody of the State of Kentucky. He began to drink early and by 18 had no future but a life on the street interspersed with stints in prison. We didn't care for him when he was a child, allowed his young life to be torn to bits, but Mitch, now that he's a homeless adult, cops, judges, jailers and "solid citizens" treat him like scum. Feel free to join in - after all, he's a drunk.

    Don't worry, though. He's not a vet. The army doesn't take alcoholics.

  2. The homeless vets don't help him. That's it.