Commit themselves to their own, each other’s, and the group’s well-being.
Last week I saw James on Friday, having looked for him daily over the earlier part of the week. Just like the first time we met, James was wearing a cardboard sign hung by a string around his neck. It announced that he needs help. When we saw each other, we both teared up. He started to apologize for not calling. He said he lost my number when he lost his phone. I knew he confused me with someone else; we never exchanged numbers. I quietly reminded him by saying I live in Milwaukee, not Seattle. He then said, “Oh, it’s you, Gary!” He enveloped me in his arms for a long while. I liked it there.
James reminded himself aloud that we last saw each other over breakfast a year ago. We had hung out for several days then, having coffee or standing on his corner together. I learned back then that he had two sons living in the Midwest, had recently started taking insulin, is a veteran, and had been homeless for most of his years in Seattle.
This time, the information was even more detailed. I learned that in the last year James has had temporary housing which ends soon, got a diagnosis of congestive heart disease, and his sons are in jail. James also has a daughter and has recently become a grandfather. He added he is now getting meals on wheels and has a new social worker. James reported none of this like a litany of woes, but more like a PowerPoint recitation.
James seemed incredibly sad and resigned. He is not like Willie who sits each morning on the ledge of a planter a block or two away. Willie is desperate. After I told him my name the first time, he almost cried as he told me his. I imagine he doesn’t say it often to someone who is not questioning him or urging him to move on.
I don’t know the name of the man with dreads who shouted down noisy concert goers last week Wednesday. They had neglected to notice that they were trespassing in his sleeping area. I also don’t have the names of the men shaking plastic cups in Chicago on Jackson, Adams, Washington, Monroe, and Madison. It seems ironic that these men are nameless and homeless on streets called by the names of others who lived far away and long ago. How many people pass the living and the dead each day with little regard or notice?
Children tangled at the borders of Central and South America
Aged people in homes they cannot maintain
That sad child in the third row
Sally who cannot seem to get to work on time
Everyone in the hospital who did not get a visitor today
Residents of the nursing home that regularly gets bad safety reports
Fred who is no longer smiling
Who are the others whose well-being is ignored?