Everywhere is freaks and hairys
Dykes and fairies, tell me, where is sanity?
Tax the rich, feed the poor, 'til there are no rich no more.
Those lyrics, from the 1971 Ten Years After song, "I'd Love To Change the World." turn forty years old this year.
Now, if you were around back in the day, I don't need to tell you how radically things have changed since then. Back in 1971, our country was at war. Our cities and infrastructure were beginning to crumble. Our coastal waterways and rivers were so polluted they occasionally caught fire. Our nation was deeply polarized over race and gender issues. Gas prices were going through the roof. A large potion of the population had lost faith in the leadership of the country.
But, as you know, we all knuckled down, pulled together as a country, and fixed all those things. Thank God all that unpleasantness is behind us now. It's clear sailing from here on out.
But there's this one guy that's not on the same page. His name is Greg, and he lives in a parking lot, up against a wall.
The crudely scribbled cardboard sign on his wheelchair says he's a Vet. He's older than me, so that would make him a Vietnam era veteran. I don't know what his health issues are, but he doesn't appear to be able to get around much at all. He's pretty much right on the pavement. He's got some sort of filthy sleeping bag or bedroll, and several assorted bags with some random dry foods and supplies, and, along with his wheelchair, that's about the size of his world.
I pass through the parking lot all the time because it's on the way to Trader Joe's. A couple weeks before Christmas, on a brutally cold morning, I first spotted Greg against the wall of an abandoned Boston Market, hunkered down in the rain. It occured to me how incredibly miserable it would be stuck in that God forsaken parking lot. I drove over and asked him if he could use a hot bowl of soup. He said, sure. I told him it would take me a while to go home, get some food and come back, and asked if he was going to still be there when I got back. He kind of laughed when I asked that because it wasn't obvious to me he wasn't physically able to go anywhere, even if he did have somewhere to go. And he clearly didn't have anywhere to go.
Now, I've always been partial to beans,and I like making bean soup. My wife and I usually get tired of it before we finish a batch, and most often end up throwing the last of it away. We were right at the end of a batch the day I met Greg. Instead of throwing out the beans the following day, I heated them up and took them over to Greg. There's usually a homeless woman in the vicinity, so I took two bowlfuls and some buttered toast and dropped them off. I also took a jar of peanut butter and a box of crackers.
It wasn't until I went back with the soup that I was able to size up Greg's situation and figure out he's pretty much stationary. I've been back a few times now to bring hot soup. And cigarettes. He smokes Pall Mall 100s. Far be it from me to judge anyone else's vices, you know? I asked if he needed blankets or aspirins and he said no. I wish I could do more for the guy, but I barely scratch by myself.
My goal for this year is keep this one guy in my heart and to do what I can to make his life a little better.