Wednesday, September 7, 2016

The Treadmill and the Poor Law

The other day I needed gas and stopped at the local convenience store to top up.  As a walked from my truck to the store I noticed a really sad sight:  a homeless woman, old and ravaged by her situation, squatting between the ice machine and the building's corner outcrop.  After I paid for the gas, I walked to her spot and gave her a few dollars; I was not the only one.  She was so frail and her clothing was past well worn and, ashamed of her situation - she could not look at me when I extended my hand that held a few dollars; even her "thank you" was frail and barely audible, tinged with defeat.  She was not a professional panhandler.  She was homeless and alone.  An hour or so later I drove by the store and noticed that she was gone.  The following day I stopped by the store and asked about this poor wretch.  The manager, I was told, forced her to leave; bad for business, you know.  WTF?  Then I remembered this scene from Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol........ 

Two gentlemen are out and about collecting charitable contributions for the poor and destitute from the local business men:  

"At this festive season of the year, Mr. Scrooge," said the gentlemen taking up a pen, "it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the Poor and Destitute, who suffer greatly at the present time.  Many thousands are in want of common necessaries; hundreds of thousands are in want of common comforts, sir."   

"Are there no prisons," asked Scrooge.  

"Plenty of prisons," said the gentleman, laying down the pen again.  

"And the Union workhouses?"  demanded Scrooge.  "Are they still in operation?"  

"They are. Still," returned the gentleman, "I wish I could say they were not."  

"The Treadmill and the Poor Law are in full vigour, then." said Scrooge.*  

Obviously homelessness and destitution is not something new and neither is the turning a blind eye to it.  We take for granted many things and consider little.  Many of our homeless had something and lost it, including their personal dignity.  Now we have men and women of our Armed Forces being neglected.  And how often do we take the sacrifices of our Service Men and Women for granted?  They come home broken in mind and body to a health care system that itself is broken.  At least 20 and more Veterans commit suicide a day; how many homeless die daily is hard to figure since they are considered human refuse.  The homeless who die on our streets and the Vets who commit suicide always die alone; they are destitute, lonely, and broken.  Within my own mind I do not have a quick solution to put an end to all of this.  But I do have the strong opinion that it should not happen at all.  

The Havamal tells us:  

**Verse 22 - A man who is small minded and laughs at others is not without faults and flaws of his own. 

**Verse 47 - Once I wandered and was lost; sadness overcame me.  Then I came across a friend and felt elated.  Men fair much better when together. 

**Verse 50 - A man who is alone, shunned, and not loved questions why he should keep on living.  He is like a tree or a garden, dying for lack of water. 

**Verse 135 - Loddfafnir, listen to my words.  If you have a guest or even a stranger in need, help them.   

If you are Christian, reading this and are confused, go to your bible and read the tale of The Good Samaritan.  And hopefully you will see the irony in the tale:  the Samaritan is a polytheistic pagan helping an orthodox Jew who was left for dead (his own people would not help him).  The irony is that the orthodox Jews hated the pagans.  

I am a simple man of simple means.  Here comes the but - when I read reports of how much money we give to countries whose people hate us it gives me pause.  Why not use some if not all of that mega cash for our own people in need?  But then, I am a simple man, best fit to perch on my front porch and slurp beer.  

* A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens, December 1843  

**These Havamal verses can be found in my book, The View From My Front Porch Copyright 2018 All Rights Reserved.  

          Copyright @2016/2018 Terry Unger All Rights Reserved


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