I would like to share with the caring people of Spokane an experience I had recently.
While leaving a small East Mission convenience store early one morning, I had a chance to observe seven men that I now refer to as the greater Spokane Street Troupe and Actors Guild. They arrived in the parking lot in a large-size pickup. While the two in the cab went into the store to purchase what I assumed to be supplies for the day, the others, like true professionals, began preparations for the day’s work.
Seven dirty hats, seven sets of filthy fatigues, seven road-weary backpacks, seven mangy-looking, sad-eyed dogs, and, of course, the mandatory seven cardboard signs saying things like, “Vet and dog stranded. Please help.”
As I watched them prepare their costumes and props, my thoughts drifted back to 1986, when I was staying - not living - under a bridge in Northern California.
I now realize this was entirely due to my own actions. That admission was one of the things that saved my life.
Rather than try to make a living as a homeless vet, I decided to quit being a homeless vet. I had to accept responsibility for my situation and my own actions. I had to change my own life, no one else. This decision brought into my life the kindest, most giving people I’ve ever met - people I did not even realize existed.
Now, sitting in a convenience store parking lot 10 years later, my amusement at finally being first at something - I was a homeless vet before it became popular - turns to anger.
The group of men I see before me makes a mockery of the kindness shown to them. They demean and humiliate the people who actually need help. If you want to give and help people, don’t do it on a street corner or intersection. Give to a person who actually wants to better their situation. Give a hand up, not a handout. Charity, churches, a neighbor, a friend, family member - the opportunities are all around us to be kind and caring.
The only thing that gentleman you see at the intersection should receive is a well-known, time-honored hand gesture in recognition of what he is really trying to do.
I’m not a fanatic about this, nor am I angry any more. I’m just trying to say thank you to whoever wrote, “Jesus Loves You,” on a sidewalk in Willits, Calif. That’s the person, and the other thing, that saved my life.
MEMO: Your Turn is a feature of the Wednesday and Saturday Opinion pages. To submit a Your Turn column for consideration, contact Rebecca Nappi at 459-5496 or Doug Floyd at 459-5466 or write Your Turn, The Spokesman-Review, P.O. Box 2160, Spokane, WA 99210-1615.
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