Last Friday morning as I drove down Elm Street toward Downtown, I noticed my good friend, "Blue" picking up cans as he made this way up the street in my direction.
I pulled up, rolled my window down and said, "What are you doing, man?" "Pickin' up cans, Mr. James," he replied.
I pulled off the street and parked my Jeep.
We greeted each other with a hug and a handshake.
"How are you, Blue," I inquired.
"I'm blessed, blessed by the best!"somehow his answer beamed. "I want that job, Mr. James, that's what I want," he reminded me of the focus of several conversations we've had out at "the Corner" across from the Opportunity Center site. "All I want is the job," he repeated emphatically. "I hear you, Blue, and I know," I tried to assure him that I had not forgotten.
"Where were you Wednesday night during the storm?" I asked him.
"Outside, under Billy's canopy at the gas station," he informed me.
"I was thinking about you as the sirens sounded and the rain poured down," I told him, small comfort, really no comfort in that report, but I wanted him to at least know that he had not been forgotten, though I did nothing to relieve his situation.
Golden Rule failure, big time there.
"What do you get for the cans, Blue?" I asked changing the subject.
"Fifty cents a pound," he told me.
"How many pounds you got? I asked.
"About 5 or 6, I'd guess," he said.
"How long that take you to pick up?" I probed.
"'Bout an hour," he said.
So, I figured in my head, "Blue" scourers the streets of inner city Dallas, in my neighborhood, for discarded cans and earns no more than $3 an hour.
"I need that job, Mr. James, I need that job," he pressed.
"I know, Blue, I know. And, you need a place to live off these streets," I reminded him of the obvious. "Nothing really changes until we find you a home," I repeated, more for myself than for him. "That's right. But, Mr. James, I'm okay. Really I am," he noted in a thinly veiled effort to take care of me, patting his chest with his open hand.
"I'm blessed, Mr. James, I'm blessed. Just don't forget that job!" he stated one more time.
"I won't," I told him. "I won't."
As I drove away, I faced his simple request, and I wondered if we could connect the dots with my friend.
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Rising from Ashes
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.
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