Dogs World; Comfort of White House Home or Cold Homelessness

copyright © Judith Moriarty

During this Christmas Season, nothing epitomizes more to me, the great divide in this country, than [the image we often see splashed across the airwaves, and the one we rarely see published in print or on the silver screens]!  

The President announced today that the “economy is doing good.”  It all depends on where you’re living!  

Indeed the economy is good for those living  within the Washington beltway.  If a person (the President) is raking in $400,000 a year in pay – the best of medical care – free housing – ( heat) – travel – and elegant meals,  prepared by dozens of staff, indeed things are very good.  

Same goes for the politicians.  They have lucrative salaries (working a few days a week), travel reimbursements, housing allowances, the best in health care (tax payer funded), pensions (with yearly cost of living increases) and the best of food,  in their on site dining room (laden down with food).  Is it any  wonder,  that those residing in Washington (running for office),  are detached from the outside world?  

They don’t call it ‘Foggy Bottom’ for nothing.  There is no urgency, in providing affordable health care, livable wage jobs, nor affordable housing.  The purpose of getting to Washington is to feather one’s own nest (and family members).

Of all the candidates running for office, only Representative Kucinich can relate to the downtrodden.  He was once homeless.  Note how none of these ‘debates’ are held under bridges, in homeless shelters, or empty paper mills!

The pampered White House dogs, Barney & Mrs. Beasley,  will most likely be eating better than the multitudes of homeless,  and those unemployed, due to the actions of ‘Foggy Bottom’,  in voting for various trade agreements, that have emptied America of its livable wage jobs.  

Since the President, nor the majority in Congress,  have never suffered the indignities of hunger, a crisis in medical care, homelessness, or unemployment – they don’t care, because they don’t have to.  

Soup kitchens are crowded (some churches are seeking to close theirs), factories are shuttered, food pantries are scrounging for food, citizens are freezing (unable to afford heating fuel), and multitudes are living in tents, from Seattle, to New Orleans.  Meantime Congress (without reading) passed a 35lb-spending bill.  Rest assured, none of it will reach America’s disposable society.  All animals are equal – but aha, some are much more equal than others!

JM

  • The Courage to Survive. By Dennis Kucinich

  • Location – Location – Location; Superdome or Qualcomm Stadium?

    copyright © 2007 Judith Moriarty

    Booker Harris and his wife Allie are not household names.  There has been no round the clock coverage of Mr. Booker, age 91, who was deposited in a lawn chair, in front of the Superdome, during Katrina.  Mr. Booker died there of dehydration, shock, neglect, and racism of the first order.  Allie, age 93, his frail wife, sat at his side munching on crackers, unaware of her surroundings, or the death of her husband.

    They’d survived wars, the Great Depression, the KKK, segregated water fountains/restaurants, schools, housing, red neck Southern sheriffs, numerous floods, and hurricanes.  What they didn’t survive was the contemptible corruption, and gentrification by disaster, of the 21st century.  What they didn’t survive, was a nation that boasts of dancing amongst the stars, visiting distant planets, yet is incapable of building a levee here on earth?

    What Allie and Booker did not survive, was the hypocrisy of the media,  that showed some fool who ripped off a plasma TV, making his way through the flood waters (over and over).  To date,  we have not seen similar video footage of duffel bags filled with multi-billions that have gone missing in Iraq?  We have seen local TV cameras,  chasing a recipient  of food stamps down the street,  daring to obtain more than her one allotted book.  To date,  there has been no rational explanation, as to where the $2.3 trillion,  that Donald Rumsfeld reported was unaccounted for on Sept 10-2001.  There’s thievery and then there’s plunder.  It’s a black and white thing.  The poor go to jail, while the rich get dream teams, have convenient heart attacks, or get executive pardons.

    What the Harris couple didn’t survive was a nation with a non-existent disaster plan (absent bunkers for the elite/chosen politicians).These are the photographs that the media did not  show over and over again on TV. 

    Location – Location – Location: If one were to be given a choice, of where they might want to experience a disaster, they would definitely want to reside in an area of the wealthy/famous.  Disaster has its own class act – as does greater society.  It’s something not spoken of – this class issue.  Better to instigate turmoil and chaos pitting victims against victims., thus excusing the corporate hucksters (rich and the shameless); of their insatiable greed and depraved indifference.  The majority of folks, who lost everything during Katrina,  were the working poor, the dispossessed, the handicapped, and elderly.  Ordinary people.

    The media presented the gullible masses with rumors of rapes, murders, and mayhem.  This was proved to be false by military personnel who entered  days later.  Naturally, this did not make headline news.  Why the subterfuge?  Maybe because such reports were a perfect excuse to send in the military and Blackwater mercenary forces, to evict the unwilling (homes not flooded) and to confiscate legal firearms so that citizens couldn’t defend their homes?

    The fires in California (2007) saw the multi-million dollar mansions, seaside homes, and gated communities of Orange County, threatened by fire.  Fire, that is a known threat in this area of heavy brush and yearly windstorms.  Nobody blamed the residents (except George Carlin) for bringing this disaster upon themselves.  Most of the nation is unfamiliar with the great disparity that exists in California.  No homeless people reside on the streets of San Diego.  There are no unsightly tenements, clinics, or trailer parks.

    Orange County is a place of exclusive homes, in gated communities, with their own schools, shopping and security forces.  Gated communities, next to gated communities.  Who are they gating out?  Robert Bellah, who wrote Habit of the Heart, states, “The underclass gives people something to define themselves against; it tells them what they are not; it tells them what it would be most fearful to become.  And it gives them people to blame.”  The gated communities of today are a powerful tangible symbol of the division between the underclass and everyone else.  To be upper middle class – wealthy is to be trustworthy, law – abiding and in need of protection from violent scavenging poor people.  Or conversely, to be poor, is to be violent and depraved – a threat to the rich.  Such construction of class differences paints poor people in a highly distorted manner.  This is deliberate.  Easier to blame the poor than those in designer suits and $400.00 haircuts, for one’s problems, lack of employment etc.  Besides,  the poor are more readily available to blame and attack.  You’ll not be welcome with your petitions or protests  in gated communities, country clubs, or the headquarters of gluttonous, corporate CEOs.  They keep themselves far removed from the unsavory things of life (namely the poor).

    These gated communities are a tangible symbol of the fear and ignorance that divides upper class people from the working class and poor.  This fear is expressed with fences, walls, guards, dogs, alarms, private bodyguards etc.  In other areas of the country, this bias is less visible.  Instead, exclusive towns, tourist meccas, and post card villages, exclude the unwanted by cost, no affordable rentals, zoning restrictions  etc.  We are fast becoming a nation of isolated islands.  The poor and working class (needed as mechanics, laborers, maids, waitresses, parking valets, carpenters, brick layers, roofers etc) are kept out of sight, in trailer parks or poorer – socio – economic areas.  It is to these places that the wealthy send their refuse to be burned or dumped, build their coal plants, nuclear facilities, chemical plants, and incinerators.

    An incinerator will never be built in downtown San Diego, Jackson Hole Wyoming, or in downtown Kennebunkport, Maine etc.  All animals are not equal.  Some are identified as ‘acceptable risks’ or ‘collateral damage’.  Their purpose in life (unspoken) is to serve the greater good.  Mainly to make life more amenable and lucrative for the obscenely wealthy.  Only the children of the working poor  (East Liverpool, Ohio) would be subjected to a toxic incinerator situated next to a schoolyard.  Imagine the outrage if an incinerator was located next to a private school with its soccer fields, or an exclusive yacht club, or golf course  etc?  Part of an ‘Inconvenient Truth’, is that Al Gore (running for election with Clinton) promised these folks that such an outrage would never happen.  He promised  (if elected) to  stop it.  Clinton got elected and they both forgot East Liverpool, Ohio.  What a shock!!

    I noticed that during the catastrophe of the California fires, that those attempting to escape were not forced back into the flames.  Many watching the disaster in New Orleans wondered why people didn’t just leave on  foot (those who were able)?  The Louisiana Superdome is less than two miles from a bridge that leads over the Mississippi River out of the city. 

    The answer: Any group of people attempting to do so were met by police who fired their guns to disperse the group and contain them.  Around 500 people stuck in downtown New Orleans banded together in self-protection making sure that the oldest and youngest were taken care of.  Two San Francisco paramedics who had been attending a convention were with this group and  reported their trauma on CNN (once).

    They made their way on foot over Highway 90, which crosses the Mississippi River from New Orleans to the suburb of Gretna (not flooded).  This is an upscale community for professionals etc, who work in New Orleans.  Much like Greenwich, CT, is to New York City.  The crowd had grown to approximately 800 people.  As they approached the bridge, the police fired their weapons over the people’s heads, driving them back into the floodwaters.

    When the paramedics (white) questioned the sheriff as to why they were not being permitted to cross the bridge to dry ground, he replied that Gretna was not going to become a New Orleans and there would be no Superdome in Gretna.  Gretna Police Chief Arthur Lawson, in an interview with UPI stated, “If we had opened the bridge our town would have looked like New Orleans..”  Months  later, after the flood and the news crews had left, seven New Orleans police officers were indicted by a grand jury on charges of murder and attempted murder for shooting unarmed citizens  as they attempted to cross a bridge to dry ground.  One of those killed was mentally – retarded, the other was a young student,  who had become separated from his parents.  No such shootings of civilians attempting to escape in California were reported.

    The New Orleans Superdome was chaotic.  People fled there to escape the floodwaters (broken levees).  The heat was intolerable.  There were no lights, the toilets all backed up (sewage treatment plant not working) and were overflowing.  There was no food and no medicine.  Many elderly, in need of heart medicines and insulin, etc, were left stranded.  Babies were without formula and nourishment.  While we have all watched reports of our feats in space – it appears, that here on earth, with all our ingenuity, we were unable to reach New Orleans for days!!  Dogs were seen eating the bloated bodies, floating in the snake infested polluted waters.  In California, efforts were made to save the animals.  A special shelter area was set up to attend their needs.  The animals in California fared much better than any human in New Orleans & Mississippi.

    The federal, state, and local officials spent their time blaming one another, as the people died in attics, drowned in floodwaters, or were being shot at by police.  Here it is two years later and New Orleans is still a wasteland (areas where the working poor once lived).  There is no affordable housing, schools, or hospitals.  Truth is, the hundreds of thousands of New Orleans citizens, scattered across the nation will not be going home.  There’s nothing being done to welcome them!  Most likely, the wealthy will have their way and realize a New Orleans Mardi Gras theme resort, with high-end condos, hotels, casinos, and convention centers.

    Imagine yourself being born and raised in the bayou and finding yourself shipped off to Idaho, Maine, or the streets of Washington D.C. etc?  This is what happened to tens of thousands.  We have become desensitized to the traumas of others outside our own narrow interests.  There is no civilization when people have lost their sense of outrage or are without conscience.

    Meantime a stadium in San Diego saw the difference in response to a crisis.  In the case of the California fires, citizens weren’t left in the inferno.  They weren’t gunned down trying to escape.  They weren’t blamed for their stupidity for living in an area known for its disasters.  They weren’t parked on nearby highways and told to wait for days for assistance.  No, instead, the Qualcomm Stadium had a carnival like atmosphere about it.  Citizens (well insured) weren’t being bussed off to distant states.  While New Orleans, citizens sat in stadium seats, in the dark, with rain pouring in from a damaged roof, the folks in California had cots, showers, and an infirmary.

    There were three bands, a ‘Kids Zone’, stacks of diapers, baby wipes, formula, and gallons of water, with gourmet meals served up by local restaurants.  Massage, counseling, and acupuncture, were offered to those traumatized and stressed out.  Tents were set up to assist people in contacting their insurance companies, lawyers and contractors.  One woman stated, “Now we have to deal with our insurance company and lawyers We Californians are a resilient people.  We’re going to rebuild and have the biggest house on the block.”  They went on to complain of the inconvenience of having to stay in a luxurious hotel.

    What wasn’t shown (brief reports) were the hundreds of homes that were saved, due to contracts that homeowners had with private fire companies.  These private companies respond in such emergencies with a fire retardant gel (new to the market) that protects homes in the most intense of fires.  Afterwards, power washing, washes away this bi-degradable protection.  Cost of premiums for this is $10,000 a year.  Many on the Gulf Coast, from Mississippi to New Orleans, two years later, are still fighting for insurance payments.  They are told that the damages they received were from wind and not flood damage, and therefore they cannot collect.  Some had every insurance under the sun and are still being jerked around.  Those in California, with the winds blowing embers for miles, and thus igniting their homes, were not told, “Sorry folks it was the winds not the fire.”

    All animals aren’t equal nor are all disasters.  The citizens of the Gulf Coast were discarded much like refuse.  Traumatized, homeless, and penniless, they’ve had to battle on alone.  Meantime President Bush promised the citizens in California that financial help was on the way.  One group of people suffered a disaster of untold suffering.  Another (white) for the most part, experienced an adventure in gourmet-serviced deprivation. 

    And Condi Rice?  What advice did she have for the victims of government bungling in New Orleans?  ” The Lord is going to come on time – just wait.” Oh The Humanity.

    Homeless in the USA

    copyright © 2007 Possum Ponders.  Sedalia Tales

    Under the US government definition a person is homeless if they fit the following criteria.

    1.  an individual who lacks a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence; and

    2.  an individual who has a primary nighttime residence that is-
      (A) a supervised publicly or privately operated shelter designed to provide temporary living accommodations (including welfare hotels, congregate shelters, and transitional housing for the mentally ill);
      (B) an institution that provides a temporary residence for individuals intended to be institutionalized; or a public or private place not designed for, or ordinarily used as, a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings.

     

    According to HUD

    754,000 people were homeless in the U.S. on a given night in January 2005. Among these persons, 415,000 were sheltered in emergency or transitional housing and 339,000 were unsheltered.

    Unsheltered means those people were living on the street with no other place to go.  Among all these homeless people 66% were unaccompanied adults and youth.  The remaining 34% were adults and children in families.  According to reports as many as 600,000 families with as many as 1.35 million children may experience homelessness over the course of a given year.  Veterans make up 40% of the total male homeless population when adult men account for only 34% of the population. 

    Homelessness is an issue that effects the entire community.  When people are homeless they are much more vulnerable to hate crimes and other crimes of the moment.  Women who find themselves homeless are likely to be raped within a few short weeks of hitting the streets.  Teens may turn to sex as their body may be the only remaining asset they have for survival on the streets.  The community suffers from the image of homeless people wandering the streets.  People complain about the homeless urinating on the street.  The tragedy is less the presence of urine on the street than that the urinating individual is homeless in America today.

    The homeless among our society are invisible to most people.  Ignoring the homeless or wishing them away are not solutions.  We must face the issue and begin to seek solutions.  There is much evidence for the root causes of homelessness but now how do we find solutions?  Of course providing some measure of shelter removes people from the street.  Such shelters need to provide more than just a bed and food for the night.  People suffering longer term needs may also require drug and alcohol counseling along with basic job skill training.  Some people need mental health care.  Many homeless people are qualified for jobs and need help in that search.  Some need child care in order to take a job.  Job seekers need an address not identifiable as a shelter in order to rent an apartment once they get on their feet or even to get a job on the way to returning to stability.  Each individual must be evaluated and given specific care to meet their needs in the shelter situation. 

    More and better shelters need to be provided.  The issue is not one of giving people a free ride but rather one of rehabilitating disadvantaged human beings to a point where they can become productive members of society once again.  Once people are able to return to the working force their income taxes will more than pay for any monies used for their care during a  homeless time.

    Housing is a basic issue in homelessness.  Affordable housing is becoming increasingly scarce.  In many places the real estate business is more profitable when vacant buildings are sold to developers for luxury apartments than when the same empty building is renovated for subsidized housing.  Laws must be changed to require lower income or mixed housing in our society if we are to make real progress toward a nation that cares for all its people.

    We need programs in place to insure people who fall behind in rent or mortgage payments have alternatives.  If short term monetary support is needed then such should be provided in order to keep people in their homes. 

    Increased amounts of safe and secure shelter needs to be provided for the abused among our homeless.  Abused women account for a significant proportion of homeless people with children.  These women may need various forms of support in order to both keep the family intact and to return to society as productive citizens.

    Despite the common perception that homeless people are more likely to be troubled, the fact is they are most often just poor in comparison to the average member of society.  Poverty and the failure of so many to earn a living wage is a root cause of homelessness that must be addressed if we are alleviate the problem.

    The overall issue of homelessness is a difficult and complex one.  We as a nation must begin to look at the problem.  This among so many more tough issues cannot be ignored if we are to be a leader among nations.  We cannot leave people on the streets day after day and be the example we wish to be in the world of tomorrow.  As with so many social issues facing our country today, we must begin to see other people as the human beings they represent.  We must seek the similarities and leave the differences for later discovery.  Only when we begin to be unified as humankind can we begin to resolve many of the major problems of the day such as homelessness.

    World Refugee Day 2007; Mourn “Necessary” Migration


    Celebrating World Refugee Day

    copyright © 2007 Betsy L. Angert

    I cannot sit comfortably in my cozy home, at my glorious computer [The Old Soul] without crying out in pain.  Throughout the world, today, more so than yesterday, or last year, we witness man?s inhumanity to man. 

    Forty million persons, men, women and children crouch on street corners, squat in small rooms, sit in squalor, and wonder if they might survive.  Some are in better circumstances.  They have found homes; however, they remain in exile from their families, friends, and all that is familiar.

    The United Nations Refugee Center tries to reach out; they have for more than half a century.  This organization works to promote awareness.  Yet, they need our help.  For those that remain as I do snug in my surroundings, it is difficult to relate to a life so challenging.  Nonetheless, I believe we must try and keep hope alive.

    In Iraq alone the continuous flood of violence has left many homeless.  In December 2006 the Guardian Unlimited reported findings that were distressing then.

    A report (pdf) by Washington-based Refugees International said an influx of Iraqis threatened to overwhelm other Middle Eastern countries, particularly Syria, Jordon and Lebanon.

    Last month, the UN estimated that 100,000 people were fleeing the country each month, with the number of Iraqis now living in other Arab countries standing at 1.8 million.

    Today’s [December 7, 2006] report came, as George Bush and Tony Blair were due to discuss the situation in Iraq, which the bipartisan Iraq Study Group yesterday described as “grave and deteriorating”.

    Refugees International said the acceleration in the numbers fleeing Iraq meant it could soon overtake the refugee crisis in Darfur.

    “We’re not saying it’s the largest [refugee crisis], but it’s quickly becoming the largest,” spokeswoman Kristele Younes said. “The numbers are very, very scary.”

    Ms Younes said the most pressing concern was to prevent other countries from sending Iraqis back to the violence that had forced them to flee their mother country.

    The report revealed Iraqi refugees were facing tough restrictions in other Arab countries, preventing them from finding work or gaining access to healthcare and other public services.

    That was three hundred and sixty-five long hard days ago.  Today, the situation is worse.  As the brutality increases so too do the numbers.  People are fleeing for their lives.  They leave the native soils they love.  Approximately fifty thousand Iraqis escape from what was once their sanctuary, their country each month.  The numbers of individuals internally displaced is innumerable. More than 2.2 million Iraqis have fled since the current American-led war began. Two million Iraqis have been displaced inside this Middle Eastern nation.

    In the Republic of the Congo, another fifty six thousand refugees fight for a semblance of the life.  The good life that most Americans take for granted is far more than a step away.

    Most of us are familiar, if only in words with the situation in Sudan.  However, might we begin to consider more than the numbers of persons in exile.  Let us attempt to place ourselves in the situation that envelops the émigrés. 

    There are 116,746 refugees in Eritrea, 20,000 in Chad, 14,633 struggling to survive in Ethiopia, 7,895 fraught in Uganda, 5,023 burdened and begging for a sense of normalcy in Central African Republic.

    In a May 2004 News Hour report Correspondent Fred De Sam Lazaro spoke of the conditions refugees in Sudan endured daily.

    For 15 months, more than 100,000 people have trekked across some of Africa’s most forbidding terrain to reach safety in eastern Chad. They arrive in small groups, bringing stories of rape and other atrocities committed by people they call Arabs — allegedly supported by the Sudanese government — in neighboring Sudan’s Darfur region. Another one million so-called “black” Sudanese who have been displaced from their homes remain in Darfur. Human rights groups back up their accusations of ethnic cleansing even though Darfur has been mostly closed to the outside world.

    In the relative safety of Chad’s refugee camps, the day usually begins around 5:00 am. Women like Jamila Numere start a daunting pursuit of life’s most basic needs. Water comes from a hastily dug, shallow well.

    Behind the people at the well are donkeys, prized beasts of burden. But their needs must come second. There’s simply not enough water to go around. The stench of death is everywhere. One of relief worker Gillian Dunn’s top priorities has been to burn thousands of animal carcasses.

    It is challenging to feel hopeful, to dream of a better life when there is not enough water to sustain oneself, let alone the animals.  To think, these were the conditions three years ago in this desert region.  In Darfur, two years later, there was evidence of a deepening decline.

    A Loss of Hope Inside Darfur Refugee Camps
    Over Two Years, a Genocide Comes Into View
    By Emily Wax
    Washington Post.
      Sunday, April 30, 2006; A12

    NAIROBI — On a stretch of the austere desert in Chad, just across the border from the Darfur region of Sudan, signs of tragedy came into full view: tattered clothing caught on the branches of thornbushes, carcasses of camels and goats that died on the long journey out.

    Then the people began to appear: haggard young girls with siblings on their backs, old men riding atop donkeys piled high with cooking pots, water jugs and mats, and elderly grandmothers, some with gunshot wounds, being pushed through the sand in wheelbarrows.

    And then: a group of female teachers, squatting in a dry riverbed, trying to find shelter from sandstorms that were building over the horizon and turning the air into a wall of thick, orange dust.

    It was a boiling-hot day in February 2004, and it was my first trip to investigate what were then vague reports of refugees streaming across the desolate border.

    A woman came out from under some trees in the riverbed to greet me. Her name was Armani Tinjany, and she was a beautiful 29-year-old Sudanese teacher, tall and gracious in a flowing orange polka-dot dress tied to her thin waist.

    She grabbed my hand and in clear English told me she had a college degree and taught Arabic and agriculture to high school students. She had lived a comfortable life with her family in a village of stone compounds.

    A month before I met her, her village was attacked by Arab militias known as the Janjaweed — slang for devils on horseback. The militiamen galloped into town, burned homes and buildings, raped women and killed dozens of men while government aircraft bombed the area. The assault was a strike back at rebels who had risen up against the Arab-led government, claming economic and political discrimination.

    In her rush to leave, Tinjany left her parents and her husband behind. Were they alive? She did not know.

    “Are they going to leave us like this forever?” she asked. “My life, as I knew it, is finished.”

    She answered all my questions slowly, and often referred to a wrinkled notebook in which she had recorded the atrocities. Even with people out to kill her entire family and her tribe, she softly apologized for not being able to offer me tea.

    At that time, Darfur was just another confusing African conflict. Today, it is known as the site of the first genocide of the 21st century, a human catastrophe that has pushed nearly 2.5 million people off their land and into camp cities, some housing as many as 80,000 people.

    Might we begin to believe that life is fragile; refugees were once as we are.  A college graduate, a teacher, who lived a ?comfortable life, now lives in dire need.  Today, this woman, Armani Tinjany exists, not much more.  Her circumstances cause her to question everything she ever believed to be true.  She is genteel, has the manners of a lady.  This graceful and generous soul apologizes for not offering her guest tea.  Yet, few apologize to Armani Tinjany.  Less even acknowledge her or her circumstance.

    I know not how to honor those that have no real home, no sense of connection to their roots.  I only submit this invitation.  May we each endeavor to empathize, open our hearts and our minds to what we cannot and rarely do imagine. 

    I offer this plea on behalf of the people and The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.  If we do nothing else, let us remember the high cost of gas means little to those without a place to call home. The debate on whether to exit Iraq is not as vital as actually leaving this war torn nation whole.  Our presence in the Middle East has not been a humanitarian mission.  We have only served to increase the refugee crisis in that region. 

    War inevitably does more to damage what was once a mother country for thousands now living in exile and fear.  Those in other nations feel this; they experience it.  Ethic cleansing dirties the landscape in Sudan.

    Ignorance or ignoring those in other distressed nations does much harm.  Our choosing to disregard our connection to the quality of life for citizens throughout the globe does not benefit them or us.  While we  may worry about property taxes, few there have land to live on.  Often Americans focus on a topic, to the exclusion of others.  Currently, the war in Iraq dominates the news.  However, there is more we must attend to. 

    Some battlefields are less visible; yet, equally critical.  I do not deny that caring for our fatherland is essential.  However, if we sacrifice others while attending to our own selfish needs, all will suffer.

    Please, I implore us all, myself included; do not let another day go by without working to provide peace worldwide.  Let people live in the countries they love.  Fretting and flittering about in cyberspace is great fun.  However, we must do more.  Give, in whatever way you can, even if it is only discussing the conditions of your fellow man with your neighbor.  Speak to those that rarely mention or think about these issues. Let us raise consciousness and create harmony in every land. 

    Bring all  boys and girls home, no matter what their country of origin.

    I share this thought for your review.

    World Refugee Day: Challenges of the 21st Century

    GENEVA, June 20 (UNHCR) ? Today is World Refugee Day, a day when the UN refugee agency tries to focus worldwide attention on the plight of millions of refugees and displaced people around the world. To mark the day, High Commissioner António Guterres is visiting South Sudan to witness the rapid changes in the nature of the refugee challenge in Africa.

    Some 40 million people worldwide are uprooted by violence and persecution, and it is likely that the future will see more people on the move as a growing number of push factors build upon each other to create conditions for further forced displacement.

    People are forced to seek refuge for increasingly interlinked reasons. They do not just flee persecution and war, but also injustice, exclusion, environmental pressures, competition for scarce resources and the miseries caused by dysfunctional states.

    The task facing the international community is to understand this new environment and to find ways to unlock the potential of refugees who have much to offer if they are given the opportunity to regain control over their lives.

    “Our greatest satisfaction comes from helping a refugee family to go home. Their repatriation is a ray of hope in a strife-torn region. Working together with our partners and with the support of our donors we have made a difference. But we need to do more to help refugees once again become active players in society,” said António Guterres, who traveled with Sudanese refugees as they returned home from Uganda after years in exile.

    Results on the ground show UNHCR is making progress. Last year, UNHCR helped hundreds of thousands of refugees return home. In Africa, in addition to stepped-up repatriation to South Sudan, bright spots include winding up of UNHCR’s operations in Liberia and Angola.

    Working in partnership is key. UNHCR’s Council of Business Leaders, for example, is providing solutions to equip refugees with the tools and skills they will need for their future. One example of partnership in action is ninemillion.org, an online advocacy tool and fund-raising campaign aimed at providing refugee children with access to education and sports programmes.

    Another is a programme supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation that is building skills and capacity among the returning population in South Sudan.

    “We cannot do this alone. But with your support UNHCR can begin to turn the tide, giving refugees hope for the future and new opportunities for their families and their communities,” said Guterres.

    Please join those that care; be a guiding light, a good neighbor, and a friend to peace, prosperity, and a long healthy life for all.  Remember the refugees each day.  Live your live as though it depends on the goodwill afforded your fellow man.  It does.

    Please do not forget the homeless in America  they too are refugees. They are our internal displaced.  Only three years ago the numbers of American displaced was astonishing.

    About 3.5 million US residents (about 1% of the population), including 1.35 million children, have been homeless for a significant period of time.  Over 37,000 homeless individuals (including 16,000 children) stay in shelters in New York every night.  This information was gathered by the Urban Institute, but actual numbers might be higher.

    In my own home community I see more persons living on the streets each day.  As I read their signs, speak with a few, I am forever reminded, every man, woman, and child is my brother, my sister, and could be me or perhaps you.  I trust I cannot forget we are all connected. if one man is poor we all suffer.  If I contribute to the passing of another person through my ignorance, neglect, or through battle, I will take blame.

    Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind;
    And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

    ~ John Donne

    References for World Refugee Day 2007 . . .

  • Basic Facts. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
  • World Refugee Day: Challenges of the 21st Century  The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
  • The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
  • pdf Iraqi Refugee Crisis. Refugee International.
  • Warning over spiralling Iraq refugee crisis, By Matt Weaver.  Guardian Unlimited. Thursday December 7, 2006
  • The Iraqi Refugee Crisis, By Dahr Jamil.  The Nation. April 23, 2007
  • Iraq refugees chased from home, struggle to cope, From Arwa Damon.  Cable News Network. June 20, 2007
  • Refugee Crisis in Sudan. Online News Hour. May 13, 2004
  • Africa > Congo, Republic of the > Immigration statistics. NationMaster.com 2003-2007.
  • A Loss of Hope Inside Darfur Refugee Camps, Over Two Years, a Genocide Comes Into View. By Emily Wax.  Washington Post Foreign Service.  Sunday, April 30, 2006; Page A12
  • pdf A Loss of Hope Inside Darfur Refugee Camps, Over Two Years, a Genocide Comes Into View. By Emily Wax.  Washington Post Foreign Service. Sunday, April 30, 2006; Page A12
  • Violence in the Sudan displaces nearly 1 million.  MSNBC News. April 16, 2004
  • This Could Be You! Homeless in America. By Betsy L. Angert. BeThink.
  • Homeless in America.  Washington Profile.
  • This Could Be You! Homeless in America ©

    June 20, 2006, was World Refugee Day.  Upon realizing this,  I was guilt ridden.  I did not know that there was a day in which we honored expatriates, persons in exile, or people that were without a home, a community, adequate food, shelter, or homeless.  I wrote of this in World Refugee Day.  What Does This Mean To U.S.?  ©.  In this tome, I briefly  spoke of our homeless in America; however, my focus was on those that live in far off lands.

    Some readers were ready to read my underlying message, others glossed over it.  People responded; yet, they did not.  I realize it is easier to see what is external to our selves.  Looking at our own “stuff” can be far more stressful than dissecting what is happening to others.  Nevertheless, I think we must discuss what is occurring in our own backyards.

    There are millions of homeless persons in American.

    I see them each day on streets near my home.  Over the years, I have spoken to quite a few, though not enough.  My interactions with these individuals were invaluable; they and their stories have become part of me. I will share anecdotes in this treatise.

    In retrospect, I fear the ample coverage of problems aboard overwhelmed me.  I think it the reporting was vital, though as my missive on World Refugees, incomplete.  I need to correct my error.  I want to be more expansive and open.  I need to place the mirror where we can all peer into it.  I invite you to reflect with me.

    Currently, according to by the Urban Institute approximately 3.5 million persons in America have been homeless for a significant period.

    This number equates to one percent of the population.  Among these are 1.35 million children.  In New York City alone, more than 37,000 of these homeless individuals stay in shelters each evening.  Of these sixteen thousand [16,000] are children.

    The National Alliance to End Homelessness states

    Homelessness does not discriminate.  Families with children, single adults, teenagers, and elderly individuals of all races can be found struggling with the devastating effects of homelessness.

    The primary cause of homelessness is a lack of affordable housing.  Over 5 million low-income households have serious housing problems due to high housing costs, substandard housing conditions, or both.

    The Economic Policy Institute offers more sobering facts.

    • Twelve [12] million adults in the United States currently are or have been homeless at some point in their lives [National Coalition for the Homeless].
    • One of the largest and fastest growing groups of homeless folks are families with children.  They are approximately 40% of the homeless population, mostly with single mothers as the head of the household.

    • On average, a homeless family has 2.2 children [Department of Housing and Urban Development [HUD].
    • Anywhere from 25% to 38% of homeless people are children [National Coalition for the Homeless, Urban Institute].
    • 33% of homeless men are veterans [HUD].

    It is likely, these numbers are inaccurate.  They may be very low.  The actual figures are probably higher.  Homeless people, even those only on the verge, anticipating what might come, tend to hide.  They do not feel safe.

    Paranoia can set in when people shun you, when they look away at the sight of you.  When the majority, of individuals within a “civilized” society, consider you disgraceful, and they say this to your face, you are not likely to feel free when you are among them.  Few homeless persons have any desire to be noticed or counted.  The gathering of statistics does not serve the dispossessed and destitute.  Numbers collected and stored in databases do not provide for the needs of the needy.  People living on the streets realize no benefit from tallies.  In truth, there are plenty of repercussions.

    I know this from experience.  I cannot recount my life as a homeless person; I hope I will never be able to, though I fear, as I think many quietly do when considering the topic, “That could be me.”

    Years ago I was distressed by what I saw as a growing situation.  It seemed to me that more people were down-and-out.  I lived in the area of the country known for its wealth, Orange County, California.  Yet, everywhere I turned there were homeless people.  Some were asking for a handout, others were looking for a helping hand.  Most were offering to work.  A few were working for whatever change might be given.

    I found this disquieting by what I saw as the greater depression.  I was a student at the time and realized I could create a project that documented what I saw as the “Greater Depression.”  I set out to interview the indigent population in my area.  I planned to videotape, audiotape, and photograph individuals as I interviewed them.  I first approached a man I saw on a busy highway, Brookhurst Street.  He held a sign asking for work; I requested an interview.

    A friend of mine was with me holding a very small video camera.  As he saw us move toward him, he smiled.  Once he noticed the camera, he covered his face.  I spoke to him of my project and requested his permission to document our conversation.  This gentleman assured me, he was open to the dialogue; however, he wanted no recording of this.  He expressed his fear that his daughter, thousands of miles away, living in New Jersey might discover his plight.  He had been homeless for years; yet, he never told her.  He was discomfited enough without her knowing.

    The soft-spoken man, a human being of greatness, spoke of his loving wife.  In year’s prior, he had been a successful man, a person of prominence and position.  He owned a home, right there in Orange County.  In this moment I do not recall whether it was in Huntington Beach, Fountain Valley, or another suburb close by.  I remember his face, his story, and the sorrow with which he shared these, more vividly than that detail.

    His wife became ill.  It was cancer.  She was sick for quite some time and needed care.  He wanted to be by her side, to help her.  Years passed, bills mounted, insurance did not cover all the expenses.  Finally, after a long and hard-fought battle, her body left this Earth.  He missed her.  He lost much, his love, his lifeline, his home, and his own health.  Now, he was only seeking hope.  I sigh as I recall this man, his misery, and his kindness.  I am grateful that he spoke with me.

    I walked on.  I went to Mile Square Park in Fountain Valley.  There I stumbled upon two gentlemen, lying in the grass.  They did allow some photographs to be taken though none came out well.  We discussed their situation.  Fountain Valley had been good to them.  What they found in trash-bins was worthy.  The park was pleasant.  They too had their hardships.  They had lost hope and found comfort in the life they had.  For years, they had sought work.  Bathing, being presentable, finding transportation, all were barriers to their success.  They spoke of how people assume drugs or alcohol were the cause for homelessness.  As they recounted their stories they assured me, for them, nothing was further from the truth.

    Then I went to downtown Santa Ana, just outside of the courthouse.  A woman quickly drew near.  She feared for my safety.  She too was indigent.  She wanted me to know as she knew, this was no place for a white woman with a camera, even a male accompaniment could not save her if the situation got tough.

    My friend and I roamed the streets.  Most allowed us to photograph them.  Some were too sleepy to engage us.  Others offered their anecdotes.  All were very kind.  Most were  sick and tired; the time without creature comforts took a toll.

    Some of you may have read of my more recent experience with a homeless man and how he helped me to remember the importance of man’s humanity to man.  I fear too often we forget.  We do not want to see, hear, or experience what we create, ghettos, slums, and places unfit for survival.

    Since earliest childhood, I theorized this is why, in America, we build freeways.  We do not wish to see our inner cities.  The general-public does not want to know how those on the other side of the tracks live.  Citizens in this, the richest country in the world, prefer to hide the poor, the impoverished, the ill, and the homeless behind walls of concrete where they will not be seen or heard from.

    Americans have hidden what they prefer not to see since early in our history.  The industrial revolution gave rise to a greater acceptance of blight; as cities grew, so too did man’s inhumanity to his fellow man.  However, the damage caused by the Industrial Revolution is nothing in comparison to that done during the Regan Revolution and beyond.

    Former President Ronald Reagan was a man known for fantasy.  Author Gary Wills wrote of this in his all too obscure biography, Reagan’s America.  Reagan imagined his childhood, youth, and service to his country to be the ideal it was not.  Ronald Reagan, single handedly created a homeless population that was never seen or imagined before.

    Carol Fennelly, Director of Hope House in Washington says,

    In fact many homeless rights activists say the single most devastating thing Reagan did to create homelessness was when he cut the budget for the Department of Housing and Urban Development by three-quarters, from $32 billion in 1981 to $7.5 billion by 1988.  The department was the main governmental supporter of subsidized housing for the poor.  Add this to Reagan’s overhaul of tax codes to reduce incentives for private developers to create low-income homes and you had a major crisis for low-income families and individuals.  Under Reagan, the number of people living beneath the federal poverty line rose from 24.5 million in 1978 to 32.5 million in 1988.

    And the number of homeless people went from something so little it wasn’t even written about widely in the late 1970s to more than 2 million when Reagan left office.

    As the rich got richer under Reagan, the poor became increasingly poorer.  The mentally ill did not fare well under the Reagan Administration.  Social Services funding was cut.  After Reagan, left office little improved.  When speaking of the then dire dilemma of homelessness, George Herbert Walker Bush declared the budget was tight, the deficit deep, and “We will turn to the only resource we have that in times of need always grows–the goodness and the courage of the American people.”

    The American people were not ready, willing, or able to cope with their own circumstances, let alone help the homeless.  Corporations had other priorities, their profits.  Nothing trickled down.  The situation worsened.  Under Clinton, the economy improved; funding for programs to help homeless increased.  There were great strides.  Still, once people slid into the abyss and suffered.  Recovery is slow,  living on the streets takes a toll..

    Under George W. Bush, the bludgeoning began again; the destitute took a severe beating.  The National Coalition for the Homeless offered this report Bush Budget Leaves No Millionaire Behind As He Proposes Massive Cuts To Programs For Homeless and Low-Income People, stating,

    On February 6th, 2006, President Bush sent his proposed $2.77 trillion FY2007 budget to Congress.  His proposals would cut $600 million from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), a 1.8% decrease from the FY06 appropriations; and funding for Health and Human Services (HHS) discretionary programs would decline by $1.6 billion.

    While the President’s proposed budget does increase funding in some areas, the Homeless Assistance Grants increased by $209 million and Housing for People with AIDS (HOPWA) saw a $14 million increase, it makes these increases by making reductions in other programs for low-income people, not by finding new resources.

    The homeless situation is subverted easily. American society tends to blame and  shames the victims.  they feel no responsibility for their plight.  Then and now, people think the homeless are strong single males that simply do not wish to work.  They believe these individuals are strung out on drugs or booze.  They think them hapless, helpless, and of little value.  Most Americans look away when they encounter the dispossessed or down-and-out.  They do not move towards these people.

    Few citizens within the United States know the destitute are as they are.  They are our mothers, fathers, sons, and  daughters.  Many have served this nation well.  They have protected us during times of war.  Some are afflicted with a mental illness.  They all need our help.

    As people, we love lending a helping handsome will raise a barn for our neighbors, as long as we know them or feel as though we might.  Katrina brought some movement.  When we saw our neighbors in New Orleans destitute, we were devastated.  We acted on their distress for days

    Popular television programs such as NBCs The Today Show, invited Habitat for Humanity to build houses on their sets.  Donations poured in from people across the states.  The Red Cross was flooded with contributions.  Sadly, little help reached the people.  However, once the limelight dimmed and these people became as other homeless were, out of the public eye, everything went back to the status quo out of mind out of sight.

    The public no longer saw the need of their neighbors; they saw the scruffy, unkempt, and disheveled standing there with their hands out.  The news changed.  Talk of larceny, theft, aggravated burglary filled the airwaves, and once again, the poor were the source of “our” pain.

    Americans are often heard to say, “God or man, helps people that help themselves.”  In the minds of many of our countrymen, people must appear “presentable,” “respectable,” and “savvy” before they are willing to assist them further.  We want our neighbors to look like us.  The homeless may have at one time; however, when we encounter them, they do not.  Therefore, we look away when we are in their company.

    Instead, we like to speak of  refugees abroad and feel badly.  We express a desire to reach out, some  actually do work to assist those in other nations.  However rarely, do we help those residing in our own house, the dispossessed in America.

    We do not want to look in the mirror; we fear seeing what we could become.  Many of us live from paycheck to paycheck.  A small catastrophe could wipe us out, physically, emotionally, or financially.  Intellectually, we know this; however facing this scares us.  We rather not and therefore, we don’t.

    When we observe a homeless person on the street, most of us will look away.  We do not wish to think about what we accept in America; nor do we wish to see what we create.  It is too painful.  If we focus on refugees in lands far from our own, we will not have to ponder what we know to be true, “That could be me!”

    I invite you to look, to learn, to listen, and speak with a homeless person in your neighborhood.  Get to know them as people, as individuals.  Let them tell you their story and realize, that you can make a difference.  Together we, as a society can change this situation.  If we choose, we can, again, care for our neighbors.  We as a nation can and “ought” to establish policies that prompt man’s humanity to man.  After all, our forefathers wrote “the Government ought to be instituted for the common benefit, protection and security of the people.”  Let us do as the founders proposed.  Let us secure “the enjoyment of life” for all of our citizens.

    Organizations That Help The Homeless . . .

    Stand And Be Counted! American Homeless Society
    Commission on Homelessness & Poverty, American Bar Association
    Homeless, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
    National Health Care for the Homeless Council
    Homeless.org, Affiliated with Grassroots.org
    Community Partnership for Homeless
    Help the Homeless Program Fannie Mae Foundation

    References That Touch The Topic of Homelessness . . .

    Homeless In America Incorporated
    World Refugee Day.  What Does This Mean To U.S.?  ©. By Betsy L. Angert. Be-Think June 20, 2006
    Florida Homeless People Find their Voice CNN News. Aired January 6, 2001
    Why is Homelessness an Important Issue?  National Alliance to End Homelessness
    Economic Policy Institute
    Homeless in America Washington ProFile
    ‘Talk to America’ Looks at the Plight of the Homeless, Voice of America
    Florida Homeless Beating Caught on Videotape By Eric Weiner.  Day to Day, National Public Radio. January 13, 2006

    Who is Homeless?, National Coalition for the Homeless
    Homeless Children: America’s New Outcasts. The National Center on Family Homelessness.
    Homeless in America, By Raven Tyler. NewsHour Extra December 11, 2002
    Homeless in America, By Bernice Powell Jackson. Witness for Justice. May 13, 2002
    A Day in the Life of the Homeless in America, By Sharon Cohen. The Associated Press. Truthout. Sunday 27 February 2005
    National Alliance to End Homelessness
    Reagan and the Homeless Epidemic in America, By Carol Fennelly. Democracy Now. Friday, June 11, 2004
    The Reagan Legacy, The Nation. June 10, 2004
    Reagan in Truth and Fiction, By Alexander Cockburn. The Nation. June 10, 2004

    Reagan: man of contradictions? By Andrea Mitchell. NBC News. June 8, 2004
    Celebrating Reagan the man, not the myth, By Joan Vennochi. Boston.com News. June 8, 2004
    Reagan’s America, By Garry Wills
    Ronald Reagan and the Commitment of the Mentally Ill: Capital, Interest Groups, and the Eclipse of Social Policy, By Alexandar R Thomas. Electronic Journal of Sociology [1998]
    Inaugural Address of George Bush, George Herbert Walker Bush. January 20, 1989
    Millions Still Face Homelessness in a Booming Economy, The Urban Institute February 01, 2000
    Scapegoating rent control: Masking the Causes of Homelessness, By Richard P. Appelbaum, Michael Dolny, Peter Dreier, John I. Gilderbloom. The Economic Policy Institute. October 1989
    Bill Clinton on Welfare & Poverty On The Issues. September 6, 2000
    Bush Budget Leaves No Millionaires Behind as He Proposes Massive Cuts To Programs For Homeless and Low-Income People The National Coalition for the Homeless. February 2006
    Helping America’s Homeless, By Martha Burt, Laudan Y. Aron, and Edgar Lee, with Jesse Valente. Urban Institute Press
    Most Americans Misunderstand Homelessness – Poll The National Alliance to End Homelessness. May 24, 2006
    Press Secretary Tony Snow Cried. He and I Touched Humanity. © By Betsy L. Angert. Be-Think May 24, 2006
    Back from Iraq – and suddenly out on the streets, By Alexandra Marks. The Christian Science Monitor. February 08, 2005
    ‘Heart of America’ to ‘Make a Difference’ NBC News. October 19, 2005
    NBC News “Today,” Habitat for Humanity International and Warner Music Group are joining forces. Habitat for Humanity International. September 20, 2006
    Red Cross Gets Surge in Katrina Volunteers, By Russ Bynum. Associated Press.
    Fraudulent Katrina and Rita Claims Top $1 Billion, By Larry Margasak. Associated Press. Washington Post. Wednesday, June 14, 2006
    `We all need to treat the homeless a little better’ By Michael Mayo. Sun-Sentinel. May 21, 2006

    Press Secretary Tony Snow Cried. He and I Touched Humanity. ©

    This passage is not political in nature.  It is about people.  When Press Secretary Snow thought of how fragile his own life was, he cried.  When a homeless man helped me to recall how lovely life can be when we care, he touched my heart.  Tears flowed down my face.

    This story is about Tony Snow, a homeless man, humanity, and me.  I will begin with Press Secretary Snow.  My focus will not be on the unforgivable term, though I too struggle with its usage.  Instead, I will discuss what for me, was a more meaningful lesson.

    In this day and age of snarky, once known as snide, rude, and crude, it was a delight to witness genuine emotion.

    Tony Snow exhibited feelings, heart-felt, and deep, at his first news conference.  The novice Press Secretary was asked what might have been considered a casual and innocuous question; journalists inquired of his Live Strong bright yellow bracelet.  These bangles are as ubiquitous as clothing itself.  They can be seen anywhere, everywhere; rarely are they worn with significance.  Still, when queried of this wristlet, Tony Snow paused.  He was sincerely and visibly choked up.  For a time he could not speak.

    Moments later, with a quiver in his voice, and tears in his eyes, Snow replied.  The Press Secretary was sobbing softly as he spoke.  He told this audience of journalists that he was a survivor of colon cancer, an illness that had taken the life of his mother when he was very young, seventeen years of age.  Snow stated, that years ago, such a malady was considered fatal; however, with the use of modern technology, he was able to fight the disease and live on.  He was thriving and staying strong.  While acknowledging all the turmoil over health care in America, Tony Snow said, with thanks to the quality attention he received, he was here and enjoying life.

    This event was newsworthy.  Tony Snow, a White House Press Secretary cried.  His tears were not exaggerated or put on.  They were not meant to evoke empathy or sympathy.  These were not the playful antics of a plotting personality.  The tears were not those of a clown or a court jester; they were unexpected, unadulterated, untainted by position or pretense.  The cries sprung from a man who had suffered, and was given reason to reflect; they were from one that learned.

    At a younger age, Mr. Snow might have forced himself to suppress the sniffles.  He might have feared what people think, would say, or do if they witnessed a grown man cry.  Snow in his twenties might have been concerned that a man in his position, appearing on television, and working within the White House cannot show sorrow or sentiment so publicly.  However, I suspect with age comes wisdom.  Experiences teach us empathy and we evolve.  Still, sadly, few of us ever expose our emotions or ourselves. His story takes me to my own.

    While my pain may not have been as life threatening, it did cause me to ponder.  The care I received was not in a hospital; nor was it from medical personnel.  My mentor had been through much and had much to teach me.

    Today’s older and wiser never expected to be.  They are from a generation that rallied round stating, “You cannot trust anyone over thirty years of age.”  They meant it; they believed it.  Few ever thought they would live beyond that age.

    The youth of the sixties was certain that they were more informed and aware than their elders, and possibly, they were.  Probably they were.  These rebels were willing to question everything and every authority.  I do not challenge that idea.  Humph, I live it, bathe in it, and believe it to be vital.  Nevertheless, in some subtle ways I think this cynicism has worked against us.  It has created a counter culture that no longer feels anything but anger.

    Anger has replaced action; in a sense, anger has evolved into apathy.  [I offer this aside for those not familiar with the way in which I define action versus reaction.  For me, actions are loving, caring, creative, and productive.  Reactions are the result of fear, hurt, and pain.  They are often counter measures and thus, counter-productive.]

    No, it is not that all persons are unconcerned; they are not.  Many are “activist,” in a reactionary sort of way.  Nevertheless, too many are indifferent to the way in which their thoughts words, or deeds affect others and the ultimately result in an unwanted outcome.

    People walk around spouting the words “I don’t care.”  They do not care about other than their interests, their friends, family, and themselves. I myself work so hard to avoid using this pervasive phrase because “I do care.”  I have come to realize that if we do not care for or about others then we care not for or about ourselves, because, in truth, we are all connected.  “No man is an island.”

    “If you love yourself, you love everybody else as you do yourself.  As long as you love another person less than you love yourself, you will not really succeed in loving yourself,  But if you love all alike, including yourself, you will love them as one person and that person is both God and man.  Thus he is a great and righteous person who loving himself, loves all others equally!”Meister Eckhart from The Art of Loving, by Erich Fromm, page 56

    In the world today we work hard to forfeit and fight against connections.  Walk down the street and watch, as the faces of others turn away from your own.  Smile at your neighbor and notice how often they do not beam back.  They as you are in a hurry, preoccupied with their own thoughts, their own worries, and their own fears.  They have no time to engage you or yours.

    Weeks ago while wallowing in my thoughts, I was engaged; I was drawn to a sign.  I was driving from Lowe’s Home Improvement Center going to PetsMart, and traveling down highway 441.  I was pondering my recent decisions and determining what was to become of me.  I had recently made extreme changes in my life.  I had entered the world of the unknown.  Fear had become my unwelcome friend.

    For years, I had lived happily in my habits.  I went to work.  I swam; I wrote and I cooked great quantities of healthy food.  I played with my babies.  I chatted with friends.  I lived in a home I made my own.  On occasion, I would walk around the lake.  Life was good, very good.  Nevertheless, I sought more.

    For decades, I lived in California.  I had never wanted to live in that state; still, my family moved there and since I love my family, I followed.  I never regretted that decision; however, I did not feel connected to this territory.  For all the years that I lived there I was never willing to say, “I am from California.”

    For me, weather is not a superficial subject; it influences the way I feel.  The climate in “Sunny Southern California” is not that.  A maritime malaise fills the sky until late afternoon.  The June gloom begins in May, and it affects me.  I wanted out.

    Since childhood, I reveled in Florida weather.  The topics were my treasure.  Therefore, I decided to move South and East, to go where my heart was.  However, much was not as I expected.

    I planned for my employment.  I intended to do as I had done for decades in California.  I did not fear financial ruin; I trusted all would be well.  After taking time to complete my house, I returned to work.  “Returned” is not the right word for this is a different state, city, and circumstance.  What was once my bread and butter, my staple, my stability, now left me nauseous.  The nuances are too numerous to explain.

    Upon entering the work force, I was repelled.  I knew I could not do this.  Worry began to fill my mind, my heart, my soul, and even my dreams while asleep. On this day, as I drove to the store, I was in a stupor.  I stopped at a red light.  I was in the left-hand turn lane.  A homeless man was standing on the medium.  He held a sign expectedly asking for money.  I had none.  I rarely carry any and even if I had, I always leave my purse in the trunk.  I knew I could not give him change; I did not have enough for myself.  In truth, I worried I would soon be him.

    I did not wish to meet his eyes, to see his soul.  I could not face my own and his presence reminded me of whom I might become.  I did, however, read his sign.  It said, “Imagine me being you, and looking away.”  Oh my, that was exactly what I was imagining, my life could easily be as his.  I believe there was more on the sign; however, in this moment, I recall my feeling overwhelmed more than all the words that took me there.

    In an instant, I remembered that a week earlier my father had taken the toll-way.  He had left the change in my car and told me to keep it.  I might need it at some time.  Perhaps if I ever drive the turnpike, the change will do me good.  When he said this, I thought, ??not likely.’  I will never waste money on such a highway.  I had tucked the quarters away in the side pocket of my car door.

    When I saw the man, I knew the money was meant for him.  My father was always giving to the homeless.  He would not object to my doing so also.  I pulled the quarters out and called to the destitute and scruffy man.  I extended my handful of change apologizing as I did so.

    I explained this was all that I had and though I knew it was not much, I hoped it would help.  [Tears are flowing again as I retell this tale.]  He sweetly smiled and explained, “There is no need for you to apologize.”  He said, “Say God Bless.”  I was reluctant.  I believe “Thou art God.”  Yet, I was not feeling the least bit divine.  I reject religious overtures; too often, they seem insincere.  However, coming from this man, in this moment, I decided to oblige.  I thought ??I am okay with this.’  Thus, I said, “God Bless.”

    The gentle man then replied, “If you say God bless and I say God bless than all will be well.”  Perhaps it will.  Whether God is within, above, or throughout, even if God does not exist other than in the recesses of our minds, I believe what is God, or the personification of such, is “goodness.”  If we say and act upon all that is good, if we remember and consider that we are all connected to our neighbors and treat them with reverence, all will be well.

    This week, Tony Snow was reminded of his humanity, weeks ago I recalled mine.  Imagine what the world would be if we each chose to be human and humane daily, if we chose to connect to each other and ourselves.

    References For Your Review . . .
    Fox anchor named Bush press secretary CNN News. Wednesday, April 26, 2006
    Understanding poverty and homelessness in America By Gerry Roll. Yahoo News. Monday May 22, 2006
    Tony Snow gets personal in first on-camera session CNN News. Tuesday, May 16, 2006
    Couric failed to question Snow about “tar baby” remark Media Matters. Wednesday, May 17, 2006
    The tears of Snow, By Michael Scherer. Salon.com May 17, 2006
    Tony Snow Has 1st On-Camera Press Session, By Jennifer Loven, The Washington Post. Tuesday, May 16, 2006
    Snow Pick May Signal Less Insular White House, By Jim VandeHei and Michael A. Fletcher. Washington Post. Thursday, April 27, 2006; Page A01
    Tony Snow Cries During First Formal Briefing Massachusetts News
    Snow Meets the Press By John Eggerton. Broadcasting & Cable, Tuesday, May 16, 2006
    FNC’s Tony Snow Has Colon Cancer By Don Kaplan. Fox News. Tuesday, February 15, 2005
    Tony Returns to the Microphone! By Tony Snow. Fox News. April 21, 2005
    FOX News’ Tony Snow Among Possible White House Spokesman Candidates. Fox News. Wednesday, April 19, 2006
    Press Briefing by Tony Snow James S. Brady Briefing Room. May 16, 2006
    “Don’t trust anyone over thirty.”
    Erich Fromm, Biography By Dr. C. George Boeree
    Meister Eckhart
    Homeless in America By Raven Tyler. NewsHour. December 11, 2002
    Homeless in America Witness for Justice. May 13, 2002