I make a point of not getting too political here. Not because I don't care, but because I care so very deeply that it can bring me to a rage. And rage, while a useful emotion in the right context, is better suited to action than words.
But then sometimes it all gets to be a bit too much.
I was interviewed on a local cable channel tonight for a segment on raising community awareness to local issues, and after sitting through the goofy sound check, the piped in music, and sitting idly while the host ran through his spin 5-6 times before it was "a take" I was asked about homelessness - and if it's getting any better.
Yes, I realize this was a dumb question, but I was not the one asking.
So my answer was, no, it's not. And it's not because federal minimum wage levels are nowhere near what they need to be, there is an utter lack of affordable child care, and millions of people have no health insurance. It is not better because there is not and will never be enough affordable housing, and it is not because the federal agenda is keen on slashing domestic policies/doling out special interest/keeping themselves rich as fast as it can.
One in six children in this country live below the poverty line. Some kids don't eat all day long, and more sleep in uninhabitable places at night. And yet this silent tragedy goes largely unnoticed. Sure, the holidays bring out some good philanthropy and cheer (those homeless folks LOVE to eat on Thanksgiving) but what about their hunger in February?
A friend of mine died recently. He had been on the streets for much of his life - in fact, when I first met him he was living under bridges feeding the trees. He had a strong relationship with trees and felt the need to provide for them - so after offering my own lunch to the branches of the oak he was under we were able to start a relationship. Through some small miracles I was eventually able to find him a place to live - and he lived there for a number of years - never solving his mental health issues, never "turning his life around" but living in a small place with food, and blankets, and heat. When he first moved in he invited me over and he said that he had never had a place to call home before, and that he could die right now and feel like he had fully lived. Just because he had a home of his own.
This man taught me a lot over the years through his goodness and simple grace. And his incredibly curious and photogenic mind. I loved this man in a way that I haven't loved many others.
Not too long ago he died in his sleep. I'll never know how, as indigent autopsies are not a priority. So when I got the call that he was found dead, I asked the person overseeing the complex to not call the police until I arrived (they tend to muck things up and be very by the book about things like this). I wanted to have a quiet moment with him, because this man will not have a funeral. He will not have a marker of his life, or a legacy to leave to his children.
Instead, he simply went quietly into that goodnight. He was lying neatly into his bed, his hands folded under his head in a gesture of sleep, and if not for the absolute stillness I might have thought it was all a mistake.
He was only 37 years old, but life had not been kind to him, and it took it's toll.
I sat next to him and gently covered him with a blanket and asked the gods and the trees to bless him and keep him, this very good man with a very hard life. And a few of us were able to offer small murmurs to each other, for his neighbors are similar to him, and this is their future, and they know it. And so do we.