Am I my brother's keeper?
(helping the homeless in Bristol)
The following words were spoken to me by a homeless Bristol friend. I find them to be starkly haunting to my soul (and I hope they have the same effect on yours, too, my friends);
“Do you know what it’s like to have people walk right you by on the sidewalk and have no one look directly at you? It’s like I don’t even exist. I wish they’d at least spit on me as they walked by. All that, and I have nowhere I can go. There isn’t enough room for us all at the shelters. And it’s gettin’ worse. Nor is there enough housing in Bristol. And that’s only gettin’ worse, too. I have no family to take me in. I have no friends who can put me up, even for a night. I’m now an outlaw if I go to where I used to sleep. I can’t get the meds I need to help with my schizophrenia, because I can’t fill out all that paperwork. What would you do, Mr. Talley?”
I can (at least to some very, very small degree) personally vouch for his situation. One Thanksgiving Eve several years back, I ventured out and about Bristol incognito (dressed as a “homeless” individual). The most shocking part of it all was, indeed, the fact that almost everyone looks right through you, as if you don’t exist.
I’ll never forget one kind lady of means who stopped dead in her tracks on the sidewalk on State Street, walked up to me, looked me straight in the eyes, and told me (in the sincerest, kindest voice you can imagine) that she wished me the happiest Thanksgiving possible.
That look. Those words. Such caring. The fact that she acknowledged my humanity. It was all worth more to me at that moment than had she handed me a million dollars.
My long-time friends know that I have actually been homeless. (The time of which I’m now speaking was not by design, as was the case referenced above.) Once back in the late ‘80s (due to one of my apparently endlessly recurring bouts with depression) I roamed homeless across the South for over two weeks.
Keep reading with a 7-day free trial