I love T.I.
So I took my spouse and another couple to the TI concert recently. This confused many of my friends, who know I love christian music, rock, ,U2, Brandon Heath, and even a few pop songs. But I also love TI. I love music in the way that books or words move us. In TI’s songs, it is the lyrics that move me. He has one song Dead and Gone…about how the old me is dead and gone and the new me is thinking first, before making mistakes. It’s a great song about life and our walk and the choices we all make. Another song I love of his is Live your Life! That ones self-explanatory. This is your life, live it.
One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned this year is that being homeless is not about money. There is usually one major event, life circumstance, addiction, or loss, that’s holding someone back. Sometimes of course, like the man I met this morning, (a former car mechanic) it’s the cause of this economic situation and a job loss, but chronic homelessness and a lifestyle of living on the street is more about not having the tools to overcome adversity. There’s a fine line, between the life you are living, and that one.
Individuals who have lived on the street for a long time usually aren’t equipped with the things the rest of us have like supportive families, business networks, or other relationship networks to draw from.
Life on the street involves navigating the system, to get a meal. It means understanding that if you’re not at a shelter by the curfew you have no bed and you’ll be sleeping under a bridge. If you end up under the bridge, it means survival of the fittest in order to stay strong, sleep with one eye open, and keep your valuables nearby. Life on the street is about survival.
This morning in the parking lot with 300 of my friends, one of the guys walked up and handed me a rope. At the end of it was a cute puppy. “Her name is Goldie,” he said. “What do you want me to do with it?”
“I need to go to work Monday! I can’t do anything. She’s been sleeping under the bridge with me.” I shook my head and took Goldie to suburbia in the backseat of the Hummer. She already dug out of the yard, twice, and I had to literally pick her up and force her into the house. The house was something she probably had never seen, nor been in. Running wild, is her element. Negotiating humans and city streets and underpasses, is her comfort zone. She was not comfortable in the house. Right now she’s out back, playing in the yard with our house dog, a black lab name Nicky. They seem to have settled in together so far, despite their different worlds and upbringings – the best of friends.
Like anything, too much of a good thing might just be too much. I was standing in my kitchen this morning about to take a handful of vitamins, when Keith called from the homeless shelter.
“You don’t ever take two multi-vitamins a day, do you?”
I stood there in my pajamas, a warm fire roaring, and he stood on the concrete floor on the other end, with a line of homeless guys behind him impatiently waiting for the phone.
I had not told him about the vitamins, but he had at one point gotten a degree in nutrition,
and vitamins were on his mind.
“That’s not good for you if you do,” he finished.
“Well… I…as a matter of fact…”
I HAD taken more than one multi on different days; I suppose to “catch” up when I felt as
if I’d been abusing my body. I admitted this to Keith and he gave me a lecture on nutrition that could have been something I’d paid for by a licensed professional standing in the front of a seminar room.
I appreciated it, put down the multiple multi’s and listened to my friend and his wisdom. He was right. Sometimes less is more.
Yesterday I had lunch at the luxurious W hotel in downtown Dallas. John had a burger, Terry and Aaron had the pork loin and I had the garlic risotto. We talked about the books we were all working on, and Jon told me how writing his was so hard he cried through every chapter. We had a writer’s workshop – in hopes of talking through the power of putting your life on paper. When we walked in I must admit the staff treated us with dignity, though we all looked pretty rough from our time on the street.
We sat down, the waiter treated my friends with respect and we ate like kings. Aaron acted as if he was in his element. “The entrée has a fine taste,” he remarked with the expertise of a seasoned food critic. Jon picked apart his burger forgoing the bun. “I’m diabetic,” he explained. At nineteen now, he’s lived on the street for a long time after killing too many people to count in retribution for the murder of the love of his life – his mother. (He served time – tried as a child at age 12.) I love this boy as a son, and he’s not very angry anymore. He and the others teach me more than they know about love and life, and we talk about things that matter.
I’m not trying to be Mother Teresa. Just doing God’s work in hopes that we can lift each other up, and maybe even out. Jon has written about his time as a gang member and the death of his mom. Nathan writes about addiction. These are the things that can keep someone stuck – whether you live in suburbia or in Rye Shelter. Sometimes all you need is an angel.
A few years ago I appeared on Dateline NBC. I had done several major media appearances for one of my books, and I came home to find a gigantic camera crew in my living room, with the furniture and all other contents emptied out.
The lights and cameras infiltrated my house, and they asked me personal questions. In the back of my mind, the question lingered.
Where was he?
Years before in St. Petersburg, Florida, I had been continually contacted by a stalker. Repeatedly.
He called me several times a week, used expletives and graphic words, and always said something sexual in nature. One day, tired of his calls, I agreed to meet him. We met in a restaurant. I had many people with me, seated at a nearby table, and I got a good look at him. My goal was to know the devil who knew me.
What good would it be if I had let him get away and didn’t know who he was or what he looked like? (more…)