Tuesday, November 29, 2011
Injured, broke, and trying to work. . .
His jeans were torn, his clothing filthy, his facial expressions bespoke his fear and embarrassment.
"I live down the street in the blue apartments," he began. He told me his name and then began telling me his story.
He needed to earn a few dollars to purchase his anti-seizure medication. Just out of the hospital after a series of episodes, he needed a job.
When I reached for my wallet, he stepped back.
"No, don't do that," he scolded me. "I don't want a handout, I want a job. May I clean your windows or rake your lawn?" he suggested.
As we negotiated the job options, he showed me the gunshot wound that marked the back of his head. He pushed back his drooping right eyelid to reveal the absence of a normal eye. He told me an incident of random gunfire had devastated him and his life.
"The bullet came out my eye," he informed me. "The brain injury changed me."
He then began to cry.
He told me his meager disability benefits don't near cover his cost of living. He wept when he told me that he used our food pantry at CitySquare so he could eat.
He told me about his church.
He told me about his career before being shot.
He hugged me.
He went to work on the leaves in my yard, and I paid him well so that he could get his meds.
My neighbor should be doing better. Make no mistake about it: he's trying very hard. He's doing all he can do.
I'll try to help him, to stay in touch.
But the scale of problems like his are overwhelming. With so many in dire need, we need economies of scale provided by collective, national solutions.
In Monday's newspaper I read about more cuts in our privatized mental health services for the poor and disabled in Texas. As the report noted, Texas has made it to the bottom of the national ranking for these services.
Think about it.