We are a nation of plenty. While a greedy few control the vast majority of wealth, a majority of us work ourselves into early graves slaving for those who pull our puppet strings. Gone are the days of our grandparents, who mostly fended for themselves and pulled through the Great Depression. Now, we're dependent upon the captains of modern slavery just to pay them their due and have enough left over to afford whatever makes us "whole."
Still, we find ways to remain happy and feel as if our lives have meaning. We love, we laugh, we struggle, we enjoy our lives as much as providence allows. Then there are the few who have somehow slipped between the cracks. Perhaps their childhood was Oliver Twist-ish, or a few neurons stopped firing along the way. As a result, they roam our streets begging for handouts to either feed their Jones or simply find a tidbit of food or shelter.
Often, it's easy to ignore them, yet sometimes impossible. I remember a time when I was young and had moved a thousand miles from home to "find myself." What I "found" was that life can slap the innocent right upside the head when idealism doesn't reconcile with common sense. The youth believes that somehow, all will be made right if they just work hard; in some cases, they think everything should be magically provided for them without any effort. In my case, the effort was there, but the results were less than marginal. Regardless of my woeful earnings, I learned to eat what I could afford.
The proud owner of a 1976 Datsun Pickup with an insulated shell over its bed, a warm rest was achieved by snuggling into my sleeping bag curled up with my dog, parked on a remote mountain path near a meadow. A forest I called home; most times the wind my only friend. It was peaceful; if only I still had my journals composed during that time. What others thought I lacked in creature comforts, my life was enriched by what I did have: the love of my dog, plenty of food (and beer), and scenery that could have stolen the breath of God. Canned food could easily be heated over a campfire, and showers could be had at a health club near where I worked. As a 20-year-old, this life was ideal. As summer ended, my hard work rewarded me with a roof. Thank God, because that winter saw temperatures dip 20 degrees below zero. What had been that young man's dream could have quickly turned into a nightmare.
As I worked harder, earned more and could afford better lodging and food, those times became fond memories. Forty years later, that kind of existence is a nightmare. Driving a bus, I roll through and with those who have not a tenth what I do. Many are older than me; their skin is thinner and gaunt from spending so much time in the harsh winter elements. My hair is blissfully less-gray than theirs, my limbs more youthful, the spring in my step quite a bit more jaunty. The grateful recipient of a wonderful childhood gave me the foundation I needed to not only survive, but to excel. While I still reach higher for "something more," recently it has become apparent that I should be thankful for what great gifts I already have.
Last night, I reached out to someone in need. This elderly man is without a home. While I could not give him a warm hearth to call his own, perhaps my attempts of kindness made a difference. He was alone and scared; I felt guilty to be so damn lucky. We connected, and hopefully our meeting was good for him. My actions are not important enough to be chronicled here. To do so would simply be tooting my own horn, which has been out-of-tune for so long it would sound contrived somehow to coax that warbled tune out of it. Instead, please join me in sending prayers to this poor soul. He needs your love more than I do; I've reveled in your support for so long, it's time I ask to share it.
So I leave you here, on this Thanksgiving 2019. With a wife who loves me more than I deserve at times, three beautiful and incredibly-successful children, and a lifetime of memories some wish they had. It has been a wonderful life, one even Jimmy Stewart's "George" would agree is worth celebrating. I am content with what I have achieved, given my life's dubious beginning. While I still reach for greater heights than I have already achieved, I could die today and feel this life was rich and meaningful. Until then, my arms always point upward, for to look down is something I cannot do.
Please join me in praying for those who have so lost their way, or never found it, that they roam alone without a home. Peace be with you and yours this holiday season, and also with those who have trouble finding it.
With love and respect,
Deke N. Blue