Jean and I were invited to Chicago this last weekend, actually Friday through Sunday, to support a charity that does a great deal of work saving dogs in many countries. (Will write more about this great charity soon.)
So we flew out, via San Francisco, from our local Medford airport last Thursday returning on Monday. The long week-end was not without a few challenges!!
I hadn’t been back to Chicago in nearly 30 years and found it a bit of a shock to the system.
So going to leave you for today with two photographs of the other side of city life!
Regular followers will be aware that both Monday’s post, The growth of empathy, and Tuesday’s post, Questions without answers, had a common theme. That of “the rising consciousness of all the millions of ordinary people just trying to leave the world in a better place”, as I wrote on Monday, in contrast, even stark contrast, with the blindness, for want of a stronger term, of those charged with governing our societies.
Around 12:45 on Monday I received a note that there was another follower of Learning from Dogs. Here is that note:
dcardiff just started following you at http://learningfromdogs.com. They will receive an email every time you publish a post. Congratulations.
You might want to go see what they’re up to! Perhaps you will like their blog as much as they liked yours!
Like many other bloggers I try and go to whatever blog site that follower has and leave a ‘thank you’ message.
So off I went to Gotta Find a Home. The blogsite is by Dennis Cardiff and the sub-title of the blog is The plight of the homeless.
Here’s how Dennis introduces his blog:
Throughout the past few years I have come to know many people, now friends, who for various reasons are, or were, homeless. Antonio, slept on a park bench and was beaten, had his teeth kicked out, for no other reason than his choice to sleep outdoors. He is a small, gentle man who has a phobia about enclosed spaces.
Craig, slept on the sidewalk in the freezing cold. I see him every morning and am never sure if, when I lift the corner of his sleeping bag, I will find him dead or alive. Sometimes, he confided, he would prefer never to awake.
Joy is a friend who fell on hard times. She slept behind a dumpster in back of Starbucks. I have seen her with blackened eyes, bruised legs, cracked ribs, cut and swollen lips. I usually see her sitting on the sidewalk ‘panning’ for change.
I can’t do much for these people except to show them love, compassion, an ear to listen, perhaps a breakfast sandwich and a coffee. I would like to do more. To know them is to love them. What has been seen cannot be unseen. I have started to write an account of their daily lives. I intend to turn this into a book and have it published. That is my goal.
I am writing articles and biographies of Joy and other street people. They have been informed that they don’t have to use their real names, that any profits would go back to the homeless and that it could be a vehicle to say whatever they want to the population at large.
Not only does that stir one’s heart and conscience but more so the fact that there are 6,069 followers of Dennis’s blog.
My lungs ached, as frost hung in the bitterly cold December morning air, making breathing difficult. I trudged in the falling snow toward Place Bell where I work, in the city’s gray, concrete, office tower canyon. I dodged other pedestrians, also trying to get to work on time, I noticed a woman seated cross-legged on the sidewalk with her back against the wall of the library. A snow-covered Buddha wrapped in a sleeping bag, shivering in the below freezing temperature. I guessed her to be in her forties. Everything about her seemed round. She had the most angelic face, sparkling blue eyes and a beautiful smile. A cap was upturned in front of her. I thought,There but for the grace of God go I. Her smile and blue eyes haunted me all day.
In the past I’ve been unemployed, my wife and I were unable to pay our mortgage and other bills, we went through bankruptcy, lost our house, my truck. Being in my fifties, my prospects looked dim. It could have been me, on the sidewalk, in her place.
I’ve been told not to give money to pan handlers because they’ll just spend it on booze. I thought to myself, What should I do, if anything? What would you do? I asked for advice from a friend who has worked with homeless people. She said, “The woman is probably hungry. Why don’t you ask her if she’d like a breakfast sandwich and maybe a coffee?”
That sounded reasonable, so the next day I asked, “Are you hungry? Would you like some breakfast, perhaps a coffee?”
“That would be nice,” she replied.
When I brought her a sandwich and coffee she said to me, “Thank you so much, sir. You’re so kind. Bless you.” I truly felt blessed.
This has become a morning routine for the past two and a half years. The woman (I’ll call Joy) and I have become friends. Often I’ll sit with her on the sidewalk. We sometimes meet her companions in the park. They have become my closest friends. I think of them as angels. My life has become much richer for the experience.
Reflect on how when you see a homeless person with so little, how so often they have a dog.
A friend of mine posted this photo on their Facebook wall. Like most people when they first see it, I was overwhelmed with several emotions.
First of all, I felt a swell of compassion for these two. I don’t even know them, but I was immediately concerned with their wellbeing. I wanted them to be warm and fed, and protected.
Secondly, I was touched with the apparent love and friendship shared by the two, even though they are not even of the same species. I thought, “They may have nothing, but they have each other, so they have everything.” I don’t know by what circumstance this man and this dog came to be together, living on the streets, but I think it is a reflection of the callousness of our society.
Whatever the reason they are homeless, they are an opportunity for us, those who have the necessities of life in abundance, to show kindness and compassion. Remember this the next time you drive by a similar scene in your warm car. Remember that if you were in their shoes, you would want, or even if you would be too ashamed to ‘want,’ you would ‘need’ someone to help you.
Our apathy is what makes us truly destitute.
Yet another example of the power of this new world of interconnectedness and how, ultimately, those connections between all those millions who care will bring about a new caring era!
How lady luck brought joy for a ‘down-and-out’ Londoner and a cat called Bob!
I was chatting with my son yesterday and he happened to mention that perhaps I should write about a cat for a change! Alex mentioned a book recently published in the UK called A Street Cat Named Bob: How One Man and His Cat Found Hope on the Streets.
This is how the book is described on Amazon (UK site),
When James Bowen found an injured, ginger street cat curled up in the hallway of his sheltered accommodation, he had no idea just how much his life was about to change. James was living hand to mouth on the streets of London and the last thing he needed was a pet. Yet James couldn’t resist helping the strikingly intelligent tom cat, whom he quickly christened Bob. He slowly nursed Bob back to health and then sent the cat on his way, imagining he would never see him again. But Bob had other ideas. Soon the two were inseparable and their diverse, comic and occasionally dangerous adventures would transform both their lives, slowly healing the scars of each other’s troubled pasts. A Street Cat Named Bob is a moving and uplifting story that will touch the heart of anyone who reads it.
A quick web search found volumes of material, so let’s start with this video,
Two cool cats… the Big Issue seller and a stray called Bob
Down-on-his-luck musician teams up with ‘wonderful loyal friend’ he rescued from streets
Published: 24 September, 2010
by PETER GRUNER
NOT since the legendary Dick Whittington has a man and his cat become such unlikely celebrities on the streets of Islington.
Big Issue seller James Bowen and his docile ginger cat Bob, who go everywhere together, have been attracting comments since they first appeared outside Angel Tube station.
The story of how they met – widely reported in blogs on the internet – is one of such extraordinary pathos that it seems only a matter of time before we get a Hollywood film.
James, 31, who lives off Seven Sisters Road, Holloway, is a musician who has fallen on hard times.
He ekes out a basic living selling the homeless people’s magazine Big Issue at Angel and Covent Garden.
Bob was a stray discovered by James outside his accommodation one day.
The cat was limping after apparently being attacked by another animal, possibly a fox.
After failing to discover the cat’s owner, James took him to the RSPCA hospital at Finsbury Park, which prescribed a course of antibiotics.
“I kept him for two weeks until he was well enough to go on his way,” said James. “But when I opened the front door to let him out Bob wouldn’t move. He seemed to me to be saying: ‘I want to stay with you.’
“Now we go everywhere together. I even have a cat harness when we go out and Bob gets really excited when I show it to him.”
Read the rest of the article here and if you want more information, a web search on Bob the Cat will finds loads more.
It’s a fabulous story with a great message of hope for not just for James and Bob but for all of us that find ourselves ‘up a creek without a paddle’ at points in our lives.
Here’s how the newspaper The Daily Mail wrote about it on their website,
[last half of the story]
But then Bob started following him and it became increasingly difficult to shoo him away, especially as there were dangerous roads to be crossed. One day there was nothing for it but to put Bob on a makeshift lead and take him along. Bob travelled sitting on James’s shoulders.
The trouble was, so many cat-mad passers-by stopped him to stroke the animal that James arrived late at his pitch, secretly cursing Bob for thereby costing him some of his usual £25-a-day takings. He couldn’t have been more wrong.
Within minutes, people who would normally have walked by without giving James a second glance were lingering to make a fuss of the cat sitting sedately in his guitar case, and most made a donation. By the end of the day, he’d racked up more than £60.
It was the beginning of a phenomenon as tourists and commuters befriended Bob and James, many bringing titbits for the cat. People were amazed at how placidly Bob would sit all day, quite happily watching the world go by while James earned a living. Not that it was always without a hitch; on a couple of occasions Bob bolted when startled, leading to a frantic chase through the crowded streets.
Bob’s popularity continued when James switched from busking to selling the Big Issue, the magazine produced and sold by homeless people. This change in direction was part of James’s growing sense of a need to get his life in order, which he puts down to the responsibility of looking after Bob, and the example the cat offered of the possibility of a second chance.
It enabled James to make the final push to end his drug dependency, going through the necessary cold turkey to get off heroin substitutes, and to mend broken contacts with his family. The final result of Bob’s influence came when a literary agent who passed the duo every day and had seen them on YouTube suggested James tell their story in a book. The result is this heart-warming tale with a message of hope that will appeal especially to the many cat obsessives out there.
An amazing and powerfully positive story from here in Payson, AZ
Big thanks to friends John and Janet Z. here in Payson for passing me a copy of the Payson Roundup from Tuesday, May 24th. Because I want to include much of this news story I have left it a few days so as not seen too directly as a copyright infringement.
This is how the story unfolds,
Homeless teens triumph against odds
Graduation nears for students who persevered despite chaos and carnage
In the summer after fifth-grade, Payson Herring found himself on the streets, living behind dingy car washes and eating stale food out of dumpsters. With both of his parents in jail and no one to look after him, he barely survived.
When he did show up to school, he was dirty, smelly and his attitude stunk worse than his clothes. Herring didn’t worry about high school graduation, he just wanted to make it through another night.
Yes, young Mr. Herring’s first name is Payson, presumably named after the town. The article continues,
Meanwhile, for Emerald “Emi” Stacklie, after living through three of her mother’s failed suicide attempts and two of her own, life remains chaotic as a homeless student. She continues to bounce from one friend’s couch to another, and often spends the night in her truck.
The only stability she found in life came when she met her fiancé a year ago, but like her childhood, that was also ripped away. Five months ago, her fiancé died in a car crash that left Stacklie two weeks in the hospital for her own injuries.
Both Herring and Stacklie continue to face circumstances most teens will never dream of, but despite hardships — that include incarcerated or addicted parents, homelessness, medical conditions and tragedy — both have so far beaten the odds.
From the outside, both teens look normal, with designer-laced clothing and beautiful smiles, but what they have gone through is unbelievable.
Both teens agreed to an interview, hoping other homeless teens will come forward sooner for help. Payson High School has resources, including housing for homeless teens through the Payson Assisting Displaced Students (PADS) program launched last year.
The rest of the story may be read here. I’m going to cut straight to the closing paragraphs.
With the support of friends and his teammates, Herring has developed a new perspective.
No longer angry with his past, Herring began focusing on the future. He worked hard at football, put more effort into schoolwork and stayed away from drugs and alcohol.
Herring used his past to help shape what he was becoming.
“I am not even mad at my parents,” he said. “There is nothing they can do now about the past. What matters now is what happens in the future and what I do. I am making my future brighter.”
Herring has plans to adopt “at least three kids.” Using his own experiences, Herring said he could handle just about any child. “I want kids to grow up realizing alcohol does bad things,” he said.
Recently, Herring even reconciled with his father.
While Herring and Stacklie still struggle, both are graduating May 26 along with 163 Payson High classmates. Both have plans for their futures — Herring to serve in the military and eventually become a police officer and Stacklie will start work at a hospital as an LPN.
“I am very, very proud,” Oakland said. “We will miss them.”
Herring and Stacklie defied the odds and “bottom-line beat the system,” she added.
These are very tough young people who will see in time that combating these sorts of major hurdles will give them a self-confidence and self-pride that is beyond measure. Well done to you, Payson and Stacklie.