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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Impressions

Monday

As I arrive at my office, I watch a man, several years younger than I, get out of his car.

Nothing remarkable there, right?

Wrong.

He “stepped out” of his car and down onto his heavily padded knees. Both legs had been amputated just below his knee. He “walked” on his knees around to the other side of the car, removed his wheelchair and started my direction. He had seen me arrive and noted that I was still talking on the phone before getting out of my car.

As he approached, I noticed that his right arm had also been amputated just below his elbow and that his only hand was in fact half a hand.

Here was a man with challenges.

As he drew nearer, I introduced myself and took his shortened right arm in my hand to shake. I learned that his name was Dennis, that he lived in Tyler, Texas and that he had come over for an appointment at Baylor University Medical Center, located a stone’s throw from my office. He needed some help with a room for the night. He made it clear he needed to “clean up” before making the doctor’s appointment.

I did my best to “expedite” our typical processes for him.

My overall impression?

Amazingly positive!

He encouraged me with his attitude, demeanor and ability to engage me and everyone else in his environment.

Take away: never count anyone out.

Take away #2: I've got a lot to learn.

Tuesday

I’m on the road to Chicago.

Interesting assignment comes with this trip.

Friends at Bank of America in Dallas asked me to testify at a Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago hearing regarding the acquisition of Countrywide Financial Corporation by their bank. The public meeting is a part of the normal procedure whenever mergers and acquisitions such as this occur.

All I can do is speak to my experience with Bank of America Dallas. It has been very positive, but I feel a bit caught between. I know there are a number of regulatory issues going forward that must be addressed, not here, but in and by the U. S. Congress so that we can avoid future situations like the current sub-prime crisis that disproportionately affect middle and low-income working people who desire more than anything to be homeowners.

Jesse Jackson spoke to the panel before it was my turn. I wish I knew what he had to say, but I arrived later in the day.

As I interact with folks in attendance, it becomes clear that the criticism is directed at the business practices of Countrywide and the hope for new, more equitable practices resides with Bank of America and its management style.

I rode the Orange Line from Midway Airport downtown for the hearing.

Chicago is a real city!

As I stepped off the CTA train and walked down the steps from the track platform to the street, I encountered a beggar holding a paper cup. He must have been in his sixties. He asked for change. No one paid any attention. Being an outsider, I stopped to visit. And, yes, I made a contribution. Debate that all you want, I enjoyed talking to him, and I figure he earned his money by putting up with me!

Walking down the street in front of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago and the downtown offices of Bank of America, I felt overwhelmed by the wealth and the power that attends such financial capacity.

Between the two giant financial institutions I meet a “Streetwise” vendor. “Streetwise” is the homeless newspaper for Chicago. Again, I stop to talk and purchase a paper. The guy thanks me and volunteers that "This is the hardest job I’ve ever had!”

I answered, “I’m sure that is right, but you know what, you do have it, don’t you?”

He flashed me a big grin and replied, “Yes, I do!”

The stark contrast is everywhere I go. I can’t avoid it.

The rich, the poor—the amazingly wealthy and the devastatingly poor. It is clear the gap is widening, especially in our major urban areas.

The contrast drives me forward.

How about you?

What do you see? What are your "impressions" as you walk around in your world?

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3 comments:

Waymon R. Hinson, Ph.D. said...

As always, Larry, you make me think about things that matter.

Arlene Kasselman said...

Larry I think I am just learning to see. These blog posts teach me so much. Keep teaching us.

Topher said...

I live inside the 610 loop in Houston, and it is incredible to see the new sleek condos and lofts go up next to the dilapidated slum apartments. I've heard the property values in the loop are continuing to rise and gentrification of the entire area is in the near future. I'm encouraged by the Houston community's generosity to the homeless and poor. But, at the same time I don't know where these people will live before too long. It is exciting to be in a thriving urban community, but saddening to think that little is being done to preserve the homes of those who can 't afford the more expensive housing. I know that my experience here would not be the same without the friendships I've made with people who've come from a different socio-economic status than me (higher and lower).