"What a wonder life I've had! I only wish I'd realized it sooner." Colette

Jun 1, 2018

A Matter of Perspective

Alan Graham, founder of Mobile Loaves and Fishes, once told me he’d always wanted to be a real estate developer…and there he was in the village he’d built from the ground up: Community First. I’d just revealed a long-standing desire to have a little shop for my refinished furniture and decorative pieces and there I was, painting furniture and creating fun stuff for the Village. We made similar gestures: smirk, eyebrows up, head tilted, shoulders shrug and hands go up; 'go figure' for those unfamiliar with the meaning of facial expressions.

I thought of that yesterday after I'd met a couple who’d reached their limit of 2 weeks camping.  Sitting in their front seat Abby and Bob (not…) looked so dejected I hesitated stopping, but they saw me and called so I went to say hello. Their heroin-addicted son had wiped out their bank account. Bob’s ATM card and Abby’s I.D. were missing; and Abby even spent some time in the pokey, for being aggravated more than anything. They live in their car while waiting for their names to come up on the housing list.

I began by saying how sorry I was, and remarked that unfortunately it’s not an uncommon problem. Doesn’t exactly help, but I reminded them that this, too, shall pass, and they were fortunate to have one another for support.

“We’ve been together for 31 years.”

I almost fell over; that’s rare, especially during hard times, and certainly says something about their…what…stamina? Characters? Well, it says something. So I start babbling suggestions while my brain’s trying to think of a decent resource. They’d heard about the free phone, and the local charity already paid for the past 2 weeks. To make them comfortable I kicked in my comedy mode, describing some of my experiences on land and sea, and how Humptie Dumptie’s been putting herself back together the past 8 years.  I do know what it’s like to scramble for housing.

“Are you a Vet?”

I'd contacted a friend in response to ‘Charlie,’ another camper caught in a Catch-22 of sorts, running out of time and feeling desperate.  He cannot receive certain Veteran's assistance without a permanent address, yet can't find anything affordable in the area (as previously reported); not without financial assistance.

Friend Tom recently retired from the local VA and immediately provided a name and building number at old Camp White; and yesterday Charlie stopped to say he was moving into housing today, and gave me a grateful hug. The VA even accepted his service dog, no questions. The only thing he needs to provide is a kennel. Three days homeless is the requisite time, and in an emergency a homeless Vet can go to the guard shack and ask for help, 24/7. Nice. (Note: Making Lemonade, above, characterizes our Maintenance crew during my time at CF.)

The VA is giving Charlie 2-6 months to stay in a room rent-free, sharing a bathroom with one other resident, and 3 meals a day; in addition to a slew of resources to which he is entitled. He'll be able to use the address for his benefits. It’s a chance to catch a breather and make decisions NOT based on fear. Charlie's going back to school thanks to Uncle Sam, and at least now he'll be able to study without scrambling for the most basic necessities.

Back to the car couple: Bob said something about his type of discharge (not dishonorable) and I said that’s no reason NOT to try. His discharge might not be good enough for certain assistance programs, but in a homeless situation perhaps they’ll be more lenient. Even if they can’t help they can probably offer alternatives; he can't be the first to ask.

Bob and Abby perked up a bit, and, encouraged, I kept coming up with stories to make them smile until I had to go help another camper.

“This, too, shall pass,” is something else we need to remember from time to time.

By the time I’d left them their demeanor had changed at least a little. No, I couldn’t solve their problems but I was able to offer encouragement, pass along information and help them focus on something else momentarily. 

That’s when I realized I am unwittingly fulfilling ANOTHER secret desire: to try Stand Up Comedy at least once in my life. What’s stopped me so far has been the enduring memory of a horrific karaoke episode following Tino’s death; when co-workers decided I needed to have some fun at a Comedy Club. I got snockered and jumped up to give it a try, selecting a favorite tune as I used to do on the jukebox.

I had no idea Bonnie Raitt wouldn’t be singing along. Printed words didn’t help. Just like the piano in Sunday School, I swayed on the stage uttering a word now and then, until the music ended.  I apologized to the crowd and slunk from the stage, but in retrospect it was great fun I’ll never try again.

The way I'm performing may not be what I’d had in mind, but if I make people laugh isn't that the point?

P.S. The duck gourds, right, were created for one Commnity First resident whose deceased Father and Brother were both named Drake, with Dad nickname 'Elvis'.

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Original gourd art designs Copyright 2020 Andrea Jansen Designs. Please write for permission.



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