Red, White, and Screwed?

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I’ve observed this fellow around town (pictured) over the past few years waving American flags in bitter snow storms, driving rain, and hot, muggy afternoons as cars streamed by causing his flags to flap as he sat smiling. ¬†It was just this past week I finally found myself by his small selling station and took the opportunity to chat.

He was sitting outside my bank fanning himself with his hat as I made a withdrawal and spontaneously decided to walk over and buy a flag. I didn’t ask, but I’m pretty sure he’s a vet, and I think there might be a few additional challenges for him outside of working on the street. It was clear from the start he’s extremely patriotic and very proud to be paying all his daily living expenses in spite of being homeless. The hats he sells are negotiated at a lower rate from local thrift shops, and he orders the flags himself in three sizes to fit his mobile cart he rolls all over town. He’s happy to place a small paperback he’s written about his life into your hands for $12, which to date, has sold some 250 copies. He’s slyly negotiated spots near local cash registers and will give you his pitch right there if you’ll stay long enough to listen. He explained he’s been homeless for several years now, ever since rent increases shot up some 400-500% the last five years making a steady place almost impossible. He also avoids local shelters because meth heads have a knack for stealing while you sleep he explains, and also possess the unnerving habit of behaving erratically during waking hours.

So I asked myself, can we really write Allen off as some sort of loser just because he’s homeless and needs a hand every once in a while to make ends meet? What happened to that sense of human decency we were taught as kids as Congress prepares to cut Meals on Wheels and school lunch programs for tax cuts?

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Charitably Numb

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Is it me or has charitable giving gotten just downright weird. I was listening to the radio this afternoon on my way to an appointment when I heard an ad for a very successful fundraiser titled, “The Princess Ball.” This event raises money for children with cancer each year and encourages them to dress up (along with everybody else) in medieval princess garb complete with tall, colorful hats waving delicate scarves bedazzled by rhinestones. The event always gets a broad array of media coverage which probably explains why a mattress company had become one of the sponsors. What confused me was the radio ad they made to support it. They announced that if I bought a mattress from them they’d make a donation (special emphasis here), in YOUR name. You see the problem. If I’m going to make a donation to kids with cancer organization, it’s not because I get recognition for it, it’s because I want to help kids with cancer. Are there people who exist out there that seriously jump up and down about having their “name” on a donation from a corporation? I mean, there are 100 kids in the area fighting for their lives against this disease, but this is your opportunity to shine, right? If you are that hurting to appear charitable, you might want to take a closer look at your value system.

Ok, other weirdness. I’m at a state river park outside of town a couple weeks ago and right there next to the trees and fish is a homeless guy with a cardboard sign asking for money. Obviously poverty continues to be a big issue in this country as we continue fueling¬†billionaires; but in a nature park? I have compassion for this guy, but seriously, what’s next, following me down the canned food row at Safeway with your shopping list? There are so many non-profits helping folks trying to get on their feet these days (I know, I’ve worked with them) that can’t we have a few peace zones we can all agree to detach from the societal bullshit for even a few minutes?

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