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Are More People “Falling Through The Cracks” Or Am I Just Encountering More Of Them?

Updated on June 23, 2009


I see it every day now. There seem to be so many more people than I ever remember sitting on the side of the road with those cardboard signs. They range in message from “Need Work” to “Need Food” but all have that desperate message that can only be scrawled on a piece of cardboard. For awhile I managed to convince myself that the guy who was on the same corner every day and would walk among the traffic trying to make eye contact with those at the red light to try to get some money were just doing it because they were too lazy to pick themselves up and try to get a job. But the reality is that you can only fool yourself so long when you see how many people are out of work and not knowing when that pink slip may come to you. They can’t all be lazy and they can’t all be that desperate or can they? Recently I had two encounters that made me think a lot about this topic. Are more people “falling through the cracks” or am I just encountering more of them? – Don’t Get Me Started!

I’m not sure how the conversation started but we were out to dinner at a diner kind of place and at one point the waitress made some sort of comment about her arm being numb. Not sure how it came up or why she felt the need to share the following with two complete strangers but she did. Rather quickly we learned that she was a single parent and had been having this numbness for awhile. She didn’t have any insurance coverage but that wasn’t what stopped her from going to the doctor. What stopped her was that she didn’t want to go to a doctor while uninsured and get diagnosed with “something” because then when the day came that she could finally get insurance, whatever the doctor found would be listed as a pre-existing condition. Make no mistake about it, this girl didn’t think she was getting insurance any time soon but in her mind she didn’t want anything to jeopardize the possibility of her getting insurance if a possibility presented itself. I wanted to explain to her that it was more important for her to get someone to check her out so that she could find out if she had something to worry about (she confessed she laid awake nights thinking of all the debilitating things it could be) and more importantly, ensure she was healthy enough to continue being a parent to her child. I wanted to go online and find some sort of medical charity that would allow her to be seen, I wanted to take complete control of the situation but I knew that would be overstepping the customer/waitress relationship. So we did what we thought was the best thing, to listen. To let her get it off her chest to complete strangers, that seemed to be a help to her and yes, she got a much larger tip than I had originally planned to leave.

Last weekend I was pumping gas. When I pulled up to the pumps I saw an obese man who appeared to be in his fifties sitting on a garbage can at the end of the island where I was pumping my gas. As soon as I got the gas pump into my car I heard, “Sir? Sir? May I wash your windows for some change? I’m a diabetic and haven’t eaten today.” I explained that I didn’t need my windows washed. As I waited for the gas to fill my car, the man went on to explain his situation. He was owed money from the Arizona Unemployment Department (meanwhile we’re in Vegas so I’m sure I don’t get why he wasn’t in Arizona but that’s beside the point I guess) they were supposedly holding up his unemployment on some sort of technicality. I sat there watching the amount rise on the pump for the gas that was going into my car and while I watched my car get filled with gas my head was filled with one phrase and one phrase only and even though I don’t consider myself the most religious person on the planet, over and over again, in my mind the words, “There but for the grace of God go I.” As the man continued telling his story looking down, not making eye contact, mostly telling it to the air because I was transfixed on the pump, trying to somehow will it to go faster so that I could leave, he brought a piece of paper out to show me that he was being truthful. There could have been anything on that paper, I didn’t look at it but I could hear from the desperation in his voice that this was someone who probably hadn’t eaten today. I went into my wallet and handed him a $20 bill. He looked up and extended his hand. I put my hand in his and he just held it for a long while staring directly into my eyes. I was uncomfortable and the moment seemed to go on way too long. Never dropping my gaze he thanked me, blessed me and when I could break the contact and gaze I said, “Good luck, sir.” And as I got into my car and drove away again the words repeated, “There but for the grace of God go I.” Are more people “falling through the cracks” or am I just encountering more of them? – Don’t Get Me Started!

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    • Jerilee Wei profile image

      Jerilee Wei 8 years ago from United States

      There are many more people falling through the cracks, and it's appalling. Here in Florida we've always had a lot of it, but the face of this has changed to many more elderly, women, children, whole families --- it used to be more males of the lost souls variety. Then, there are those on the verge of it all -- just take a peak at the grocery store -- at what's not being bought.

    • profile image

      \Brenda Scully 8 years ago

      you just never know what is going to happen round the corner do you, it is really sad that people are finding life sooooo difficult. It is sometimes hard to find the ones that are in real need, and the ones who are just trying to get money for drink or whatever....... I know it is upsetting to see though.... Really enjoyed the hub, thanks for taking the time to write it... Brenda x

    • Tom Cornett profile image

      Tom Cornett 8 years ago from Ohio

      You did a good thing. There are many folks out there and many more are about to be. Two years ago...we couldn't find a place to rent in our city. Now there are empty houses for rent on every block. More tent cities will rise and more people will go hungry.

      Grocery prices are rising by the week. It is a very sad situation and communities will have to do something because the government has ignored the middle class and poor once again to bail out the greedy.

      You simply took a step in what we all have to do. Help each other. Thanks for writng this hub.

    • somelikeitscott profile image

      somelikeitscott 8 years ago from Las Vegas

      pgrundy - thanks for reading and writing. Sometimes it just feels as though so many people are going through all this stuff that those of us with shelter and food are becoming the minority. Scary!

    • profile image

      pgrundy 8 years ago

      More people are falling through the cracks. Every winter since I moved to Kalamazoo (Michigan) some old person freezes to death and several houses and apartments burn down because people are using fire to stay warm instead of heat. The first winter here a former school teacher froze to death on the courthouse steps on Christmas Eve I sh#t you not. She was homeless and had been for awhile because the free clinic where she got her schizophrenia meds had to be shut down and her family said they couldn't handle her.

      Last winter an 87 year old lady froze to death in her home because the disconnect notice blew off her door. It was a week before they found her.

      This winter 6 little kids and their mom burned up not more than a mile from where I live, no one knows why. The house went up like straw, real fast, and there were three families living in it--a little two bedroom house.

      So no, it's definitely not just that you are encountering more of these people. Don't get me started either.

      Oops. Too late.