The family unit might be what stands between you and homelessness; give thanks on this Thanksgiving

November 21, 2012

Please Note:

I realize not everyone who might read this is going to be able to enjoy Thanksgiving and that some people may not have family or at least not close to them (by proximity or otherwise) — there are always some generalizations in such essays.


Just having finished my Trader Joe’s instant frozen Chinese dinner and with my stomach full, I’m feeling pretty thankful on the eve before this 2012 Thanksgiving.

As I arrived in town last night from a road trip in my big truck it was raining hard, so hard I did not want to get out of the vehicle to drop the trailer as I needed to and to even bother transferring some stuff to my car to go home for some days off. Fortunately the rain let up a little, long enough to get all that accomplished, but it resumed and rained hard through the night.

At my place of work rivers of water streamed through the parking lot, so much so that even though I was on pavement I got water up into my work shoes.

And as I drove home through the adjacent neighborhood where the local homeless hang out, I thought how rough it must be to live out in the elements in such weather.

I had just a day or so before been chatting with my sister about the plight of the homeless. I said that as far as I was concerned no one should have to be homeless. There ought to be public shelters offered. It would be a good use of tax money, I thought. But I know such has been tried in the past. Sometimes it is the homeless who object. They do not want to be told where to live and when to come and go and are often concerned about their own safety and the security of what belongings they might have in such places.

She reminded me that in the old days homeless people (mostly men at that time, I think) were picked up as vagrants by the cops and put on county work farms.

I said I realized that if one had no family to go to one could easily find him or herself homeless. And she agreed and said that once dropping to that level one would be so demoralized that it would be hard to ever rise back out of it.

(And how do you show up for a job interview or have clothes to wear for it and what do you say about your current situation and recent work history if you are homeless?)

I don’t know why I seem to see so much more homeless people than I used to (and yes, I keep up on the news and know about the poor economy and so on). I notice that our local homeless — and I really don’t know their personal stories — seem to be a mixture of aimless (and maybe not all that unhappy) young people, drug and alcohol addicts, probably some Vietnam vets, and for sure some out-and-out loonies, and some out-and-out bad actors, and there is a definite mix of age groups. Again, I don’t know their individual stories, but I am afraid (well not afraid; that is just an expression of doubt) that bringing most of these people back into mainstream society would be nearly impossible for a variety of reasons.

I also don’t think we can just say they are homeless because they choose to be but we also cannot say most of them are homeless through no wish or act of their own.

Beyond or notwithstanding the color some of these people bring to the local street scene, I think homelessness is a blight on a community and a threat to public health. I mean where do they go to the toilet (where do you think?). And then there are the dirty drug needles left around, and they are probably spreading communicable diseases.

On that last point, I have to note that a lot of the street people hang out both outside and inside the local library. I hear a lot of hoarse-type coughing in there. I am both concerned for those individuals and for myself — I mean don’t we have a right to be concerned for our own health in public places?

I certainly do not suggest people should be put on county work farms. No I would suggest public shelters be built and counseling be mandatory in an effort to help those who are not beyond help. For the rest, we just have to have human understanding and patience and overall tolerance and just be glad it is not we ourselves who are homeless.

And this reminds me why families are so important to the social structure.

So enjoy your Thanksgiving and put up with those family members and be glad you have them.


I was in a community in the LA area the other day and noticed parked cars bunched up nearly bumper to bumper up and down the street and then I saw a line of people snaking around a building — the sign on that building read: “Social Services”.

And that building’s parking lot was also filled with cars. A woman was getting a baby stroller out of the trunk of one of them.

The cycle of poverty continues. And really this is a different subject.

But to the extent that one might assume that most of these people are not homeless, one might almost have to admire the rough and ready and almost self-reliant, live-by-their-wits homeless.

Appreciating and giving thanks for Thanksgiving…

November 25, 2010

The freeway was crowded with cars last night what with everyone going here and there to be with family. Well if everyone goes somewhere, who stays home?

I’m in a good mood, even though I also have the sadness that this will be the first Thanksgiving in more than 40 years I will not spend with my wife, she having passed away this past summer. I’m in a good mood because I will be with family and family is what I need right now.

It is heartening to me to see that people are so eager to be with family. Maybe we all haven’t quit the family thing after all in this increasingly impersonal world.

Of course I know the holidays can be a tricky time too when it comes to family get togethers. Sometimes old rivalries and jealousies, aided and abetted at times by alcohol, come out.

But let’s hope that is not the case for you reading this, and my advice is that if you see it coming — back off, nothing is to be gained.

I’ve been so busy driving the long haul that I am not fully up on the latest nonsense from Sarah Palin, but from listening to John Rothman on KGO last night I understand she has criticized JFK for a statement or speech he made about separation of church and state.

You’ll recall that his campaign for the presidency was threatened by charges that he being a Catholic would mean he would be taking cues from the Pope. He answered that although he was indeed a devout Catholic, he understood the need for separation of church and state in a nation where our constitution guarantees religious freedom.

There’s a lot of irony here. We know from our earliest school days, dressing up like pilgrims, that those funny-clad folks came over here for religious freedom. But strangely they would not have been too tolerant of anyone who did not believe like they did.

But here’s the deal as far as I can see it — and like so much else, I have blogged this before:

You cannot have religious freedom (which to me includes the right not to be religious) if the government in any way favors or otherwise recognizes one religion over the other.

On the other hand, we (the U.S.) are by our history nominally (maybe not the right word) a Christian nation. And we do have In God We Trust written on our money (although that does not specify the Christian God, but we know that is what it means). But we have also agreed to allow all to worship or not worship as they please.

I’m not going to go on with all of this now, since I need to prepare for visiting with family and chowing down on Thanksgiving dinner.

But I will say I am thankful for family and the bounty God (or whatever supreme power) has bestowed upon me. And I recognize that not all are so fortunate.

And what do I do for the less fortunate? Not a lot. I do not feel that I have the money to spare for charity directly, but I do pay taxes, and I do not begrudge any of that money going for those in true need.

And I am trying to get out of this blog and not digress into further subjects or variations of the same subject. But I wish there were some way to create a public assistance program that targeted individuals and families in true need due to circumstances beyond their control, such as unemployment and health problems. But a lot of our social service funding is wasted (and I mean a lot) on people who make a career out of gaming the system. Yes it works that way at both ends of the ladder. People at the bottom game the welfare system and people at the top game the federal tax structure and the financial system.

Honest people carry the burden. But they also have a clean conscience and will not have so much explaining to do when they meet God (or the supreme power).

And that is my sermon for the day.


The Road to Montana, day 1:

August 26, 2010

As a truck driver, I’m taking the proverbial busman’s holiday, helping my sister drive to Montana (in her car) for a family get together. I’ve never been to Montana.

Day one got off to a good enough start, leaving Redding, California, where I live, that is until we were many miles into the Sacramento River Canyon and too late to turn back and some chance remark I made to my sister reminded her to ask if I had brought my sleeping bag and some towels, things we were told we all needed to stay in a cabin in the woods — uh, no, I forgot.

I drive U.S. 97 frequently, but I’ve always wondered what that weird statue object in front of a place called the Chrome Shop, between Klamath Falls and Chemult, Oregon is. It’s kind of a cross between a dinosaur, and rhinoceros, and a, well I don’t know, some kind of wild creature.

Stopped and spent time at the High Desert Museum just south of Bend, Oregon. Lots of parents with little children were there and a bus load of school kids had just left. Quite an extensive display on prostitution in the old west — I guess a new emphasis on telling it like it is or was in history. But, honestly, if you’re ever up that way you should stop. Lots of interesting things on area history and native Americans, okay Indians. Also plant and wild creature exhibits, inside and outside. And also a play area for the kids, and even a temperature controlled place to leave pets. And one feature that was especially good was sound effects in some of the old west exhibits (but no sound effects for the first exhibit I mentioned). Also quite a display on card cheating apparatus used in the old west — and a pretty good replica of an old west saloon.

We’re not going long haul each day. We only got as far as Madras, Oregon (I think a five or six-hour drive out of Redding).

Stopped at a motel. I had been driving. Got out of the car. Later my sister asked if I had the keys. I thought I left them in the car (something I never do, but). I didn’t; they were in my pocket.

Probably the only real excitement of the day.

I’ll try to update as I go along.