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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Prostitute “Ordered too many Burgers” and other Good People


Being homeless was an extremely dark time for me. But I would have to say that if I could change the past, I wouldn't. Every bit of terror, pain, and indignity shaped the person I am. Not only that, but the experience of dragging myself up from less than nothing - I guess I'm pretty proud of that.

I also saw uncompromising goodness during the bleakest points - people little better off than myself who helped and nurtured and saved lives including my own. I grew to see all of the good people as family.

Let me explain about that. When I say the good people I'm not talking about who society would call good people. I'm talking about people who, even when broken and discarded, beaten and abused, maintain a spark of love and decency in their spirits. I'm referring to the prostitute who "ordered too many burgers" all the time and sought me out to "get rid of the extra ones" on her way home. I'm referring to the crack head who stood up to the well-dressed young man who decided to knock me around a little. I'm referring to the discarded old man who bathed me like a child and pushed me in a shopping cart to the ER after I was raped and stabbed. I'm referring to everyone who is like them, or would be like them under the cruel pressures and birth pains they've suffered.

I wouldn't change my knowledge of their existence for anything in the world. Underneath it all, even in the worst of worst times human beings are good at heart.

You'd think having seen some of the most evil things a man can do to another, and seeing its imprint written on the faces of those I came to see as family - you'd think I'd have learned to see the evil in mankind more clearly than the good. But I do. I see evil more clearly than ever before. But I see where it comes from. I see how sometimes, the breaking of a man snuffs out that spark of love and decency in his heart. Sometimes, there's not even tinder left should someone decide to try re-lighting it. It's not something chosen, it's a spiritual injury.

Since I escaped the streets, I've done what I can to help others do the same. Mostly, it has been personal and direct - taking in discarded teens, teens who were too gay, too pagan, or just too much effort for their parents. When I was too poor to buy extra food, or was already pushing the limit on the number of occupants in my apartment I gave literacy and companionship. But I've also tried to wake people up to my understanding, to wake them up to the value of every human being. None of this is charity, none of this is "good works" - this is my family and it's my responsibility to care for them. It's yours, too, whether you know it or not.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Very nice story. tell her about my dream for the Old Elk Hotel in New york City....God Bless, Pat H.