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.
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Larry James' Urban Daily
A repository of ideas, resources, commentary and opinions concerning the issues facing low-income residents of the inner cities of the United States and how mainstream America largely forgets or, worse, ignores the day-to-day realities of urban life for the so-called "poor." Written and edited by the President & CEO of CitySquare. Please visit CitySquare.
Today and throughout 2013, we need your support to continue our life-changing work in inner-city Dallas. Every day hundreds of our wonderful neighbors arrive at our doors seeking our assistance, offering their help and prepared to pursue a better life. Frankly, the folks we "serve" make essential contributions to the scope, nature and soul of the work we attempt. At CitySquare we honor and recognize the amazing value and richness of our low-income neighbors. During 2012, almost 55,000 different people received the benefit of our wide-ranging services designed to assist in the process of building better lives. We need your help TODAY as we continue to respond to the needs of our community. Even more, we need you to become our PARTNER in the work of compassion and community renewal--work that continues day after day at CitySquare.