Dear Donald John,
I had an interesting experience yesterday, one that I would like to share with you.
The weather outside was chilly, and I was busy in the kitchen getting things organized for the evening meal when I thought that I heard someone knocking at the front door. It was a light tap, so quiet that it didn't set my two big-talking house dogs to barking. Because the dogs didn't respond, I chalked the taps up to my imagination and went on with the meal preparation. Then it happened again, still very quiet - and still the dogs did not respond. I got to the front door just in time to see a young man with a backpack turning and walking away.
The fellow stopped and turned as I pushed my way past the suddenly loud and protective canines. He said that he was sorry to bother me but was hoping to borrow the use of my phone so he could call someone for a ride. When I asked where he was headed, he said downtown in the vicinity of the library - a distance of about three miles. It was, I suspected, an oblique way of asking me for a ride. When I told him to meet me around back at the car, he added that he would be very appreciative of a glass of water also.
I suspect that every community in America harbors homeless individuals, though they aren't overly obvious in West Plains, Missouri. I wanted to use the ride to town to learn a little about life beyond my comfort zone.
My passenger (I'll call him "Dale") told me that he was twenty-nine-years-old, was originally from central Missouri, and had lived in the West Plains area for three years. Dale said that after his father had died, he came to West Plains to live and work with an uncle. He said that things went along okay until the uncle died and the Dale suddenly found himself out of work and homeless. During Dale's time in this area he met a girl (I'll call her "Sue") and they fell in love. Sue, too, lived with an uncle, and that uncle would not let Dale stay with them.
I asked Dale where he had slept the previous night, and he said that he had a sleeping bag in his backpack, and that he had slept in a field about two miles north of my house.
When we got to town I bought Dale a burger and fries, though he had not asked me to - but he seemed appreciative. He dug into the fries and saved the burger for later. I figured it would be his supper. We got to the library and found it closed. Dale had wanted to go there to access the free wi-fi for his phone, undoubtedly so he could contact Sue, so we went on down the road to the Civic Center which was open and also had free wi-fi. As we pulled into a parking space, Dale, who had constantly been scanning his surroundings, became very animated and said excitedly, "There's Sue!"
A young lady, also in her twenties, was sitting outside of the front door leaning on her backpack. Dale quickly thanked me for the ride and rushed forward to join his girl. I drove off as the young lovers were embracing. They were together again, at least for an afternoon, and they had a warm burger to share. They could enjoy a bit of respite before again focusing on how to survive the night.
Homelessness in America is a real problem, Donald John. Not everyone had the good fortune to have been born on the sunny side of Easy Street, like you, and many find that is almost impossible to pull free from the flypaper of poverty.
Yet they persist. America's poorest of the poor sleep in fields, and alleyways, and in dumpsters, and doorways, and over subway grates, and on park benches - while America turns her face away and pretends not to see. But they are there, sleeping rough, and desperately trying to survive one more night in a world that shuns and ignores them.
A "great" nation would be as concerned with the least of her people as she is with the wealthiest. A "great" nation would insure that everyone has access to health care, education, nutritious meals, and a safe place to sleep. Anything less is just a patchwork of privilege.
If you really want to make America great - then do it, but don't fall into the trap of thinking that what is great for you personally is great for everybody - because it isn't. There's a blizzard warning today for the northeastern United States. You can escape the snow by flying off to Florida, but for thousands and thousands of your fellow citizens (including many children) there will be no escape from the rigors of winter - other than death.
Man-up, Donald John. Look around and see who is actually living on the streets of America, and then be their President, too.
by Graham Leese
Mud begins to grow
Its skin again; the pools
Of silver reflection
Collecting like the dead
Leaf freckles on her snow
Frost bites at her eyes like rain
From a summer storm- viewed
High from a weathered mountain.
Frailty trapped inside glass pupils,
Lies entangled in a poisoned glade.
Looking through her broken breath,
Recycled like the oppressively
Clean cuts of calm; you can just
Make out the faint sound of sirens-
A few streets away.
Drifting through the 6am desolation;
Beside cats waking from underneath cars
And rust ridden birds feeding their young
She walks a crisp and void trail,
The December air slicing her faded cheeks.