Monday, September 12, 2011

Helping Hands

(Originally written Sept. 7, 2007)

We are now back in Florida from Guatemala, helping my Dad. Had to do a detour... but that's life.

However; along the way recently, I have been more and more awakened by 'needs' of those we encounter. In the US, I gave the "needs of homeless, or a generic organization--- a check here and there." Now, I am seeing and realizing more, the needs of humanity more personally. Maybe it's the frequency of mixing with varying cultures as we get to travel internationally, but the needs of others,  are hitting me.

A couple of coins here and there don't do much in the 3rd world, nor does a $5. bill if you fly into Ft. Lauderdale.

We had just flown into Ft. Lauderdale from Guatemala and I only had $20's in my wallet from the airport's ATM. We picked up our rental car and were stopping for lunch before a 4 hr. drive across Florida to our home. In the fast food restaurant's parking lot was a VERY homeless young man. Sitting with a look of weakness and hopelessness, tattered clothes and holding a broken umbrella to shelter him from sunlight, he watched us go into the fast food restaurant. Then, upon returning to our car, still sitting as we passed by, he asked quietly and respectfully for a dollar. Since we were 'upset' with the long line, we had left without ordering, so still had only $20's. I told him I didn't have one, which was the truth, but with a vision of him burning my mind, we returned 20 minutes later after getting change and handed him a 5 requesting he get some food.
I now, often and with serious regret, chastise myself for not just handing him a $20.  What was I thinking?  He was so lost. I could have done much more.

5 minutes later, needing to make a right turn onto the Interstate, we were stopped for a light.  On the curb in front of us a few cars up, was a middle aged woman, looking similarly desperate.  She sat crying, obviously in deep dispair.  Many in our world need help.

Today, I took my dad to church and later asked the priest "where and how can homeless get direct and instant help thru the church." Father Vladimir responded without missing a heartbeat, "St. Vincent De Paul Society", was the link needed. That comment has led me to them and other sites, but:

I will find out HOW to make this work, or start working on thoughts of my own. Any ideas or helpful comments will be appreciated.

Note:    their is 1 COMMENT  below this post.(see the fine print "1 COMMENT'), is actually from a long lost friend with whom I had a serious disagreement with once and we never spoke again. Her comment tho is worth the read.  She is a gifted writer as well as musician/singer. "KW" for short, is a musician that has graced stages large and small; ie: my own old favorite hangout Harry's Beach Bar, in St. Pete Beach, Florida as well as the stage at Carnegie Hall, NYC, as back up and soloist for and with Arlo Guthrie.  

Her life will be a movie some day.  I disagree with some of her thoughts still, but understand and respect her rights to them.
Please, if you are interested in this, continue also, to the next entry in this blog, called "211".
Thank you.  Ron Sheridan, this blog's author.

1 comment:

folksinger said...

About a year and a half ago, my youngest daughter left for college.
The big house in the woods felt cold and so very silent when my daughter left.
It had been a real struggle keeping up with bills, and I decided to get rid of everything, then move away.

I left my beloved coastal North Carolina area with all I had left packed in my car. I headed to the Cascade Mountian area of Oregon where my oldest daughter lived.
There I discovered "Volunteers In Medicine", a dedicated group of doctors, nurses, tech and staff people who volunteer their spare time and services for those in need.
Within no time, I had been diognosed and operated on, treated respectfully and compassionately, with the best of care. I was...still awe of these fine people walking the talk daily, changing lives for the better, one person at a time.

Everything I knew as familiar was gone.
My career was no longer an option, the climate strange to me and all in all I felt lost.
The medical situation was too much for my daughter. So I chose to do something I had wanted to do for a long time, go camping.

I had a nice little tent, a good sleeping bag and various other camping gear required.
I t took awhile to find safe, comfortable places to pitch my tent. I was told that Walmart stores allow overnight parking and was curious to see what that was all about.
So I pulled into the nearby store parking lot, and settled in for a few days.
I was amazed at what I observed and learned there.
The most extreme poverty-stricken people, along with some of the most expensive, ridiculous R/V setups, etc grouped together. It was mind blowing to observe.

In the daytime I discovered a nice town park where most of the homeless rested, passing time, etc.
One day some homeless young people helped themselves to my little bag of food that I had set out by my car because the ice inside had melted and the water was leaking all over the car.
That was the only food I had.
I yelled out to the kids, "HEY! That's the only food I have!"
They looked at me with blank eyes, took the food and ran off.
I felt so hurt.
It tok me all day to come to some peace about the whole thing. I realized that had they ASKED me for the food I would gladly have given it to them.
So....what, I wondered, was the problem?
Ego. I wanted them to ask so I could have the warm fuzzy feeling of having done such a nice thing.
I let go of al that, actuall glad to know more about my inner motives, etc.

I knew that there was a church nearby that offered free lunches to people in need and I would go there the next day. What the day and night without food would give my digestive system a break.

I got to the church at 1:02 pm. I knocked on the dor and asked if I could have some food.
Through the intercom system at the door, a woman answered, "Lunches are served til 1:00 and it's 1:04. We are closed.
I was shocked, hurt, sad and hungry. On the verge of tears, I asked a woman walking by if she knew anywhere there might be free food to eat. She pulled out her wallet, then for the briefest of moments, stopped and looked at me. I must have looked like some old drunk trying to get money for wine or something, because she quickly put her wallet away and suggested I go to The Saint Vincent De Paul Society a few miles away.
So that's what I did.
The St. Vincent De Paul place had a big sign in the window that said, "CLOSED FOR REMODELING".

I sat there in tears. Invisable. Hungry.
I went back to the Walmart parking lot and hung out till the next day.
I made it to the church food place in pleanty of time. There was a man in front of me, a big man, dirty and tired looking. He asked for 4 lunches. The church guy said he could only have 2.

I went to the park to eat my lunch and saw the big guy sitting alone at a picnic table. I asked if I could sit there with him and he said he didn't care.
Within moments, a woman pushing a stroller (with a small child) and 3 other kids ran up.
The woman looked at the 2 lunch bags, then loked at the man. He looked humiliated and defeated. Very quietly he said, "They would only give me 2 lunches".

I left my full bag on the table and walked away as fast as I could. I thought about the church lunch guy, the arrogance, the judgement, the insensitivity and indignaty. I was furious.

Months lated , while camping in a nice wooded spot, I began thinking about the many things I had become aware of from an up-close view. Such poverty in the midst of such affluence.
I heard someone refer to me as "homeless" . I laughed and told them that I was EMBEDDED with the homeless. I was there by choice. I was writing a book on homelessness. I was doing a documentry on homelessness.
It was then I knew that I really must write about what I have seen. So many stories, so many individual human reasons for different situations....judged so smugly by others better off.

In the midst of everything, I experience the comfort and relief of various groups of people who cared, helping out in so many ways.

The American Music Academy Grammy Award folks have an org called "Music Cares" which offers assistance to professional musicians in crisis. They helped me out, quickly and caringly. They kept in contact with me daily, to make sure I was okay.

Many folks from The Guthrie Center kept me supplied with food gas and other needs money.

The Habitat For Humanity people offered free camping for two weeks at a wonderful town park in exchange for a small amount of time helping out in their store.

Later, I was contacted by The Sunshine Lady Foundation, Doris Buffett, the sister of Warren Buffet, who awarded me a grant worth $5000.00 of computer equipment to help me explore new ways to begin again. I told the people there that I wanted to begin building a network of people and groups that were helpful to others.
I want to focus on ways to support people who support people. I have seen how a little help becomes HOPE itself in the midst of crisis. And it's very hard to go forward without HOPE.

There is a lot more to say....another time.
Meanwhile, there's a book needing to be written....I'm off to do some of that.

Blessings to you both this new year and always,
folksinger KW