We have 5 more copies to go before we finish the first 20 copies to get the discount from the printer. So, I thought I’d share another excerpt from the book.
After years of eating poorly, I could now afford a tomato. That’s all I wanted. Fresh produce, real fruit…..and a bowl of fresh tomatoes.
There was a Winn Dixie in my neighborhood that was shamed, frowned upon. And why? For one of the strangest reasons you could ever think of. No matter how good the sale might be at Winn Dixie that week, you won’t catch the people who live two blocks over ever going there. And why? Well, next door to Winn Dixie is a weekly hotel where many homeless people live, with the majority being men. A lot of them will band together, pan handle, collect recyclables, or do whatever they can to pitch in to share a room. So, you’ll have 5 guys living in one room. Its pretty much a place to sleep and be off the streets. And believe it or not, this is a step up. This is a hopeful way forward. They sleep on the floor of a crowded room, hope not to get into fights, hope no one gets drunk, and cook their meals on the barbecue pit in the weedy courtyard downstairs.
Now, Winn Dixie is where they shop, or sometimes to get away from the crowded room, or the fights, or just to be left alone. They wander around Winn Dixie, or just hang out in front of the store where they have a free water dispenser. Because of this, many, no let’s say MOST of the people in the neighborhood won’t go there. They don’t like the sight of it. They don’t want to be bothered with it. I, of course, didn’t care because of my own history. I had been one of them.
That particular evening was interesting. I walked up there, grabbed my tomatoes and some other vegetables and as I was coming out of the store, the usual afternoon monsoon in Central Florida started. The bottom of the clouds opened up and began drenching with a deluge everything below. So, I hung out under the awning of the store waiting for the rain to pass, standing not to far from two homeless men. A few seconds later, a few more fellas came out of the store, and a few more from out in front of the building. So, there I stood among probably ten homeless men, all of us with our belongings in tattered bags, all of us with clothes found or picked up at a church thrift store, all of us sharing at one point or another in our lives the same moment of hopelessness. I looked around at them, watched them, their faces, many blank and without spirit, broken, discarded. Forgotten.
Yes, its true. Some of them have substance abuse problems. Others have mental health issues. And some, like myself, just hit a financial oil patch and skidded towards ruin very quickly. I had that same look on my face for a long while, too.
It wasn’t that long ago that I was one of them. And another miscalculation in the near future could put me among them again. So, what was different between us now? I have a very tiny place to live, but its mine. I no longer went a day without eating anymore. It may not be the BEST thing for you, but at least I don’t fall into bed hungry. So, what was different? How did I escape? Was I lucky? Did I work harder than them? Was I more of a survivor? A fighter? The only answer I can truly claim, is that I never gave up hope. Yes, at that point in my life back then, I definitely was convinced that the world had not only trampled me, but that it had forgotten me. I could see that in their faces under that awning. They felt forgotten, invaluable. Dismissed. Unnecessary to the world at large. Unwanted. And why wouldn’t they? They’re reminded of it often. People don’t look them in the eye. People turn their heads when these men approach. Hell, people won’t even shop in the same grocery store with them.
And maybe that’s the difference. I made damn sure that the world would not forget about me. I made damn sure that I reminded people that I was valuable. I wasn’t going to just go away. I opened my heart so that I could feel wanted. I was HOPEFUL that the world was filled with compassion, care, kindness. And with heartfelt joy, I am able to say I’m right. . With my hopeful writing and my sad eyed teddy bears, so many helped nourish that hope. They never forgot me, They lifted me. They remembered me.
The rain disbursed, and slowly the sun began to creak through the cracks in the clouds. I gathered my bag of produce and started to leave. I turned back around as I was halfway through the parking lot and saw them standing there, faces still uncaring, too beaten inside to have any hope left. And I whispered under my breath, “Don’t give up hope, guys. I’ll always remember you. I won’t ever let you be forgotten.”
Those men you see on the side of the road, or passing by with their shopping carts, or bound up in parkas even though its 90 degrees outside……they’re always in my thoughts. Don’t ever feel forgotten, my brothers, I will always remember you….
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