Blessed Are Those Who Hunger and Thirst For Righteousness
THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO KAREN
She turns over, pulling the thin blanket tightly under her chin. Night is the best time, a time when the Joker finally arrives, and his sweet voice flows through her veins, taking her to places far removed from the pain and loneliness.
The sounds of the city are always present, as are the moans and groans of her four companions, all running from a life they found unacceptable. It is at night that they can huddle together for warmth, when Karen can forget about the uninvited touches of a drunken stepfather and his slick words of distorted love.
She is safe for the time being. She scratches the needle marks and awaits the moment of oblivion. Tomorrow will be another day, and when the sun rises and it is time to walk the streets looking for food, Karen will be a day older but a lifetime wiser and yes, more jaded. Innocence is gone, and in its place resides hopelessness and a longing for the early days when she danced in the orchard and felt the life-giving rays of sunshine.
THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO WALT
Time no longer has meaning. What does it matter what time it is? It’s always time to be in the chair. It’s always time to wheel down to the park and ask for a spare dollar. Show the folks your shining medals, and salute them if they understand. Wars are paid for forever, or so it seems when you bartered one leg in exchange for freedom.
Freedom from what, that’s what Walt is thinking? Freedom from walking without crutches? Freedom from the indignity of being forgotten by a country that needed you two years ago? Freedom from the use of your bowels, replaced by a bag and a drainage tube? Salute that you motherfu*&%#*.
Got to keep talking to the tourists so the voices don’t have their way inside your head. Keep up the chatter, drown out the sounds of the incoming rounds, whistle the Star Spangled and thank God I’m free to pursue happiness. What a bunch of horseshit!
THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO BARBARA
It’s five o’clock; time to take the kids down to the Food Kitchen for a warm meal, then back to the shelter for a shower and bed. Damn him to hell! What happened to the vows? What happened to the love? What kind of love knocks out the teeth of your wife? What kind of love drags her by the hair and tells her she is worthless? What kind of love?
Job interview tomorrow. Some cleaning company and minimum wage; not enough to get out of the shelter but enough to supplement the food stamps and maybe one day get us into our own trailer. Let’s see, take the 11 Bus to State Street, then transfer to the 74. That will take what, two hours to get there? Make sure there is enough time; no car, no money for a taxi, gotta make this work, the kids are depending on me and Kathi needs to see the doctor and Jimmy needs new pants and dammit to hell, what happened to the love?
THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO KEITH
Long day flipping burgers. There is time to catch a couple hours sleep, then head off to the next job. Two part-time jobs, both minimum wage, don’t add up to nothing but a chance. There’s always a chance, right, you just have to keep moving forward. Forward motion, don’t stop long enough or the machine will run over you, the same damn machine I belonged to until the market crashed and the job went overseas along with the hopes and dreams. Wife ran out, took the kids, took the remaining cash, and here is reality now, one foot in front of the other and hope to God tomorrow brings some kind of change….change…that’s all that’s left in the pants pocket, change enough to call the kids tonight and tell them daddy loves them, and then go to sleep hearing the sounds of their crying saying “we love you, dad.”
State of the Union last night, sounds like things are getting better for someone. Got to re-train the workers and teach them how to be a part of the new system, a system of the future, but how do you do that when you don’t have a pot to piss in or a window to throw it out? How do you get ready for a future when the past is an earthquake and the present is a tsunami?
Important work done by this organization
Making a difference
- Human Trafficking: Susana Trimarco Makes A Difference
Slavery is alive and well in the world. It is the second leading criminal business and growing yearly.
THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO YVONNE
No eye contact. That’s the key; never look the customer in the face because that makes him real, and if he’s real then this life is real. Sweat and the smell of booze and cigarettes, that’s the reality, a naked businessman grunting his love, telling me I’m beautiful but don’t look him in the face. He’ll be gone soon, but then another will take his place, and another, until King tells me that’s all for the night. The Boogie Man is very real, and his face changes every hour, and that is a reality that will never leave.
I remember my family, the picnics, the holiday gifts and the barbecue in the suburbs. I remember the trip to the Mall, and the stranger approaching, and the hand over my mouth and darkness descended, only to give way to a new reality, but I’ll be damned if I’ll look them in the face because then they would be real…all of this would be real….and then I’d just want to die. What day is this? What month is this? What did mommy and daddy look like? I can’t hear their voices any longer. Is this real or was that real?
Helping Battered Women
- Women Helping Battered Women – Working to end domestic violence against women and children
WHBW believes that all women and children have the right to live without fear of battering – sexual, physical, emotional, or financial. Our vision is an end of physical, sexual, emotional and economic abuse.
STOP AND LOOK AROUND YOU
They are everywhere you look. They might even be your neighbors, or some distant relatives, or heaven forbid a close friend or daughter or son. Try your best to avert your eyes because, as Yvonne said, to see them is to admit that they are real and that just might be too unsettling.
We step over and around them daily. We clutch our purses and our wallets, and we detour to safety across the street when we see them coming. We say a silent prayer of thanks that our loved ones are not like that, and to soothe our conscience we speak out against injustice and then scurry home to our safe harbor and toast the good life.
On Sundays we drop a five in the collection plate and feel good about ourselves. We have done our part to help humanity and now it’s time for that barbecue and the good life to begin. We can’t understand why those people don’t do something to help themselves and damn the government for giving free handouts to people who are fully capable of fending for themselves. After all, we made it so why can’t they?
But you see, we never faced those obstacles now did we? We were never snatched off the streets and we never faced an emotional darkness so bleak as to seem a fantasy. We have never had to scrounge for food in a dumpster and we have never had to share our food with the rats. Without that perspective how can we possibly pass judgment? There but for the grace of God is more than a snappy saying that gives us some relief. Those words are a truth more terrifying than we want to admit. There but for the grace of God go I….and you….and you over there.
And so it goes. Yvonne will die only to be replaced by another Yvonne. Keith and Barbara, Walt and Karen, all will continue to struggle, and when that last ounce of struggle has left their bodies they will become another statistic to read about on page 37 of the Sunday Times.
Hurry now, lock your doors. Tuck your kids into bed and tell them stories of hope and opportunity, and make sure you tell them to say their prayers, because you never know…..you just never know….you just never know!
2013 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)