This particular piece was written especially for Speak Out Though Not Spoken to by the absolute best writer that I’ve known personally in my entire life time! This is by far the most honored I’ve been since creating this site, and will probably be a hard-presses to trump it in the years to come! Miss Pilkinton writes on the importance of selflessness, charity, and general humanity. Her words are not only meant for the holiday season, but every day we are blessed enough to breathe……..
Christmastime is here. Though I am not a Christian, I adore this holiday. We become so caught up in our everyday lives that a lot of us don’t think about others. This is a time when people give to others blindly and with purpose. Whether said purpose is to to alleviate guilt, teach their children the importance of charity and love, to feel better about the gross amount of presents beneath their tree, to get rid of the annoying rattle of pennies in their pocket, because their church demands it of them, or because they actually care, it is still giving to those in need.
I only wish that this spirit of kinship and selflessness, of charity, lent itself more readily to other months of the year. I want for more people to understand the importance of sharing needlessly and without prejudice.
These are hard times economically, as everyone knows by now, but how many people that are suffering still have been struggling for decades with poverty, the joke that is American health insurance, keeping a roof over their family’s heads and their own, fighting the rampant plagues of crime and ignorance that shadow far too many neighborhoods, even whole zip codes? How many people worry for their family’s safety? How can I stretch this pound of beef and can of tomatoes over four meals? Are my babies going to go to school hungry? How can I give my child hope and security in a kingdom of gangs, drugs, and violence?
I speak from experience. I was homeless before the age of four. I have been homeless several times since. I know what it’s like to survive on canned chicken and tuna, to have no money for the beef required of generic Hamburger Helper, to have no heat or lights in the dead of winter. I know what it’s like to live in a car, to sleep on church steps. I have had to scamper after pennies and nickels that other people dropped and shrugged away. My mother made me whore myself to support her drug habits while I starved.
I live in Memphis, Tennessee which has been ranked within the Most Miserable Cities, Cities with Worsening Economies, and Most Dangerous Cities (beating Detroit this past year) by Forbes magazine. Memphis politicians were outraged, but Forbes is right. Sirens and machine guns firing off don’t startle me anymore. I have been subject to the violence in this city: gang rape, mugging, abduction. I have seen this same violence afflict my neighbors. We know fear. We know that a locked door is a little lie we tell ourselves in order to sleep more fitfully at night.
I can understand in all of this chaos why people might duck their heads and walk faster when a homeless person approaches them, particularly the “scary” ones that ramble and drool or have missing eyes and limbs. What I don’t understand is the mentality that comforts these actions: “Oh, someone else will help. I’m too busy. I have enough on my plate, etc. etc. He’s probably just a drunk or too lazy to work. The government will take care of it.”
Last year in Queens, a homeless man, Hugo Alfredo Tale-Yax, saved a young woman from a knife-wielding attacker. He lay dying in a pool of his own blood for over one fucking hour before anyone cared enough to dial 911. Not even the woman he saved raised a finger. Over 25 people walked by, stopped to stare, and did nothing. Even one man took a picture with his cellphone. By the time medics arrived an hour and twenty minutes later, he was dead.
These things happen everyday. I would equate the injustice, the inaction, and inhumanity this poor man endured in the last moments of his life with the plight of every homeless man, woman, and child in America. Heroism need not even come into question. He was a fellow human being. What must have gone through his head? What must go through every homeless person’s head and heart every time they are reproached or shied away from or flat out ignored? Imprisoned rapists and murderers die better deaths than this man did, eat better meals, are given comfort and shelter on the taxpayer’s dime.
I am challenging America to help our own, to save our own, to feed and clothe and shelter our own. Forget Africa, forget Afghanistan, and forget Cambodia until America is a more literate country, a more loving country, a country that doesn’t turn our backs to those in need. Millions of our brothers and sisters are on the streets of our homeland are dying, and we are ignoring their cries. Something must be done.
I will leave you with the wisdom of the great Franklin Delano Roosevelt: “Peace, like charity, begins at home.”