This essay wrote itself in my head one winter morning. It reflects back to the theme of my last post, Homeless in America.This is my job. You don’t think it’s a job? You think I’m just lazy because I stand on the corner, clutching my crumpled cardboard sign between frozen paws with long, jagged, dirt-rimmed fingernails? You think I’m too lazy, too stupid to fill out a job application, buff out my resume, traipse to one business after another, pleading for some position—any position? Maybe my downcast eyes, my rags, make you uncomfortable.
Maybe you’re afraid to look at me—afraid of the silent accusation of your own feelings.
Maybe you suspect that my buddy in the wheelchair on the next corner is just using that chair to solicit sympathy from suckers. Maybe you think if you gave me a dollar I’d waste it on booze or cigarettes instead of food and a shower. Maybe you think if I’d made better choices, I wouldn’t be here. Maybe you think if you were me, you’d be anywhere but here. Maybe you think you are better than me in your shiny new car with leather seats, talk-radio, and a car payment that could keep a roof over my head for six months. Let me tell you what you don’t know: You don’t know that I followed all the rules. You don’t know that I labored through high school—moving pipe and bucking hay. You don’t know that I escorted the class queen to prom—yeah, we looked good: she in a strapless maroon gown with the pink corsage, me in a maroon suit, shiny black shoes, and boutonniere clipped to my lapel. You don’t know that two months later, I marched to Pomp and Circumstance with stars in my eyes and visions of a Marine uniform and a college diploma. You don’t know that I enlisted, worked my way through college, then paid my dues—over there, in the desert. You don’t know that after four years in-country, I came home missing one eye and half my heart. You don’t know that I pulled myself together, put that college degree to work, landed my dream job. You don’t know that I married, had babies, a wife, a house, a garden, two cars and a boat in the garage. You don’t know that I sat in a cubicle crunching numbers and making decisions. You don’t know that I was your boss. You don’t know that I was given false numbers to crunch—just like GW’s false information about the nukes. You don’t know that my job blew up like an IED blowing to life under a tank. You don’t know how it felt, walking through the double glass doors to find my personal possessions in a box along with a check enclosed in an envelope stamped: “Good luck.” Maybe you don’t want to know that the guy on the other corner lost his leg defending the oil that powers your shiny car. Maybe you don’t want to know how many job apps I have filled out. Maybe you don’t want to know that my wife and my babies found a guy who still has his dream job. Maybe you don’t want to know how it feels to curl up under a holey sleeping bag while snow bleaches my existence and passersby stare. Maybe you don’t want to know how hard it is to find a place to take a shit and a shower. Maybe you don’t want to know that, of all the jobs I’ve had, standing on a street corner clenching a sign and grinding my teeth is the hardest job I’ve ever had. Maybe you don’t want to know anything about my 24/7 job.
The embedded video contains old stats, but makes good points:
p style=”text-align:center;”>Video courtesy What About Now