Several years ago, Kim and I visited Hannah and Alex in Pittsburgh. We had a nice dinner, and after, Hannah and Alex showed us some of the sights. Kim and I had been around the city on our way to or from Wisconsin, but we hadn’t actually been in the city. Once or twice on recruiting trips, I had been on the outskirts, but I had not visited Pittsburgh.
It was a nice trip. I had no idea that Mr. Rogers was from Pittsburgh. We saw a large statue of him. We walked the water front and watched speedboat races. Listened to music. Then Alex drove to a lookout where we could see the city skyline. Pretty at night.
On our drive back to their apartment, we drove through both nice, upscale areas of the city, and some of the harder hit, rundown areas. On a couple of the corners, there were some of the homeless begging for change. An elderly woman, or at least who I thought was an elderly woman, pushed a grocery cart with what looked like all her personal belongings.
Alex turned to me and said, “Do you ever wonder how she got here?” I looked at him questioningly and he clarified, “You know, how did she ever come to this place in her life?” I tossed out the responses most of us had heard through media: mental illness, PTSD, addiction, alcohol. Yet looking at her, watching her push what was left of her life in a grocery cart, caused me to think.
How did she, or anyone for that matter, get from a home and three meals and a bed, bath or shower, to living on concrete in cardboard boxes with garbage barrel fires for warmth? How?
In 2018, Tenille Townes wrote and recorded a song, Somebody’s Daughter.
I drive home the same
way, two left turns off the interstate
And she's always standing at the stoplight
On 18th Street
She could be a Sarah, she could be an Emily, an Olivia, maybe Cassidy
With the shaky hands on the cardboard sign
And she's looking at me
Bet she was somebody's best friend, laughing
Back when she was somebody's sister
Counting change at the lemonade stand
Probably somebody's high school first kiss
Dancing in a gym where the kids all talk about someday plans
Now this light'll turn green and I'll hand her a couple dollars
And I'll wonder if she got lost or they forgot her
She's somebody's daughter
How did she, or he, get there? Here?
I have to admit that like most everyone else, I see “them”, the homeless, the disposed, the unwanted and unwashed, and I go my own way. At times I see the same one or two standing at the same corner or walking to or from their spot. Like most everyone else, I drive by as I hurry here or there.
When we lived in California, Kim and I would visit Baja, and the kids and others would sell gum or beg for spare change. We were “advised” to not pay attention because if you help one or two, you will be flocked like pigeons after seed. On one trip, my brother Jack, Hannah and William were with us. Wil was adopted from Guatemala, and once upon a time, as recently as a year or so before he was adopted from an orphanage, he was one of those kids panhandling on the street. Shoplifting to survive. He gripped my hand tightly and wouldn’t look at the kids. His head down, eyes on the pavement, he’d walk by.
I used that experience in my book, Betrayed. Three fifteen-year-old adopted brothers, George (a Navajo), Brian and Brett (both from upper-middle-class homes) traveled through the squalor of and Navajo Nation Reservation. The thought Brian had was that he dared not look at George, because he understood that George was once one or two rungs up the ladder from where these kids played in the dirt streets barebacked and barefooted.
Aren’t we all? One or two steps away from living on pavement? Most of us, fortunately, will never know living in a cardboard box or under makeshift canvas tents. Most of us, fortunately, will never know life on concrete under bridges. Most of us, fortunately, will never know the gnawing feeling of hunger or thirst. But some of us will. Some of us will be somebody’s daughter. Some of us will be somebody’s son. Some of us . . . Something to think about . . .
Live Your Life, and Make a Difference!
To My Readers:
I have an author's website, in addition to my Facebook Author’s Page.
On it, I talk about writing. I introduce characters from my books. I release snippets from those books. I let you in on any interviews I have done. I will let you know of any events coming up for books sales and signings. Mostly, it is my way of reaching out to you so that you get to know my author side of life. You can find it at: https://jrlewisauthor.blog/
Caught in a Web: A PenCraft Literary Award Winner! Named “One of the Best Thrillers of 2018!” by BestThrillers.com
Photo courtesy of Jon Tyson and Unsplash