Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Homelessness: A Laughing Matter

On April 9, 2007 at approximately 9:15am I saw a black man running across a very busy intersection in Atlanta. He was in a 200 meter stride. It appeared he was trying his best to get to an area where he could go unnoticed while urinating. As I watched this man struggle to unzip his pants I began to laugh uncontrollably. For some reason on this Monday morning I needed a reason to laugh and I guess someone to laugh at. I found my victim in a black homeless man. As I drove past this man, who could have been my uncle Raymond at one time or even me if I don’t find a job real soon, I continued to laugh. I just found the scene to be hilarious for some odd reason. He just could not get his penis out of his jeans to relieve himself. His difficulty became my sick joke and my pleasure entertainment as I road in the comforts of my luxury vehicle.

When I finally lost view of this particular man and as soon as I approached Garrett Morgan’s invention I saw another black man in the cross walk talking to himself and carrying a briefcase. He had on shorts, a filthy white t-shirt, dilapidated looking Chuck Taylor’s, and suspenders. Immediately, I thought: He is homeless. He had to be dressed like that and looking so defeated. Here it was 43 degrees in April, and this black man had on shorts. He had to be cold, but his destination in his mind was work.

While I experienced the comedic moment, I shared the play-by-play with someone extremely important to me. She did not appear to find the urinating man story to be funny. I just believe my animation tickled her. Remember, I was literally falling out of the driver’s seat giggling. As I continued to have this cell phone morning chat outside of my free minutes timeframe I began to really “get in-tuned” with what I was making fun of on this eventful morning. It got additionally clearer to me when I parked, and a homeless woman asked me for some money for breakfast. In my unsympathetic way I refused to press the down portion of my driver’s side window lever to hear what this broken soul asked of me. I read her lips as I gazed into her intense eyes: “I am cold and hungry. Can you please spare a dollar?”

In those eyes I saw pain, embarrassment, humiliation, and personal disgust, but I still could not bring myself to communicate with this homeless black woman. I guess I did not really SEE her as a human being. She must have been what my dear friend described within her question while I laughed at that man trying his best to take a leak: Is he a real man or a homeless man? After realizing the magnitude of her question an apology came through my cell phone, and then and only then did I began to understand that this series of events was either divine or an opportunity for me to make it a God Sent Message. Considering I do believe in God, I want to believe that this Power we claim to identify with and who we pray to each night was communicating something to me. Even if one day some “logical” human being proves there is no God, I will always believe that there was a God Force speaking to me via on my faith on April 9, 2007 between the minutes of 9:15am and 9:30am.

For a few months now I have been trying to think of another way to give something back. You know, do something other than constantly talk and write about the ills affecting the black community, speaking occasionally at schools, raising my son, donating money to the United Negro College Fund, and mentoring my nephew.

Every since my first day of working in the Five Points area of Atlanta I have disliked that I must entrench my spirit and being in the mess that plays out without interruption or failure in the heart of America’s fastest growing metropolis. I despise the self-degradation that I see, and the lack of personal responsibility displayed by my people. I truly detest the ramifications that have been inflicted upon us as a result of an oppressive and racist governmental system. In spite of this internal conflict, one thing has been ongoing within me: I have, in my unique way, connected with the homeless population on Broad, Trinity, and Mitchell streets. Through significant mental anguish and my uncouthly compassion another meaningful cause will be added to my life.

As of today, I have decided to team up with a program that feeds the homeless on Saturday mornings in that same parking lot where I see black men and women walking around in a trance begging for a little bit of my government granted salary. The director of the program doesn’t know it yet, but he will be surprised when I stop by this coming Saturday morning with bags of hand-me-downs. I remember those bags filled with goodies!

Your help is needed. If you live in the Atlanta metro area please go through your closets, and donate those “old” clothes to a good cause. I will even pick them up. There is not a huge rush because this weekend some black man who, by the way, could be my father will get two pair of shoes, a few shirts, and some slacks from my closet.

If you would like to donate please let me know ASAP. Also, if you are reading while living in another city please encourage your church to think about forming a homeless ministry. I will even do what I can from afar. Hold up – all of our churches are already addressing this issue. Righhhht!

Lord, help us to SEE these aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters, nephews, nieces, grandfathers, grandmothers, mommas, and fathers as REAL PEOPLE and not homeless people.

Written by Muata. Inspired by that man who I hope finally got his penis out of his pants.


Muata said...

Reader Response:

This is very interesting Muata and I am glad that you are going to take the initiative to do something. I did not find the first part of the story humorous at all but I figured you would have a good ending. I have loved volunteering my time and I found some great ministries in California. I have been participating in a ministry called Operation Love, a non-profit that one of the ministers at my church run. We just had an Easter party on Saturday for some kids in a rough neighborhood that otherwise would not have had baskets, eggs, a good meal and "new" clothes. Three little girls stole my heart. They were sisters 4, 2 and 1 and they lived pretty close to the ministry. The 1 year old had no shoes and was walking around in a dirty diaper. I just wanted to take them home with me. I did not want to judge the mother who actually looked younger than me and was pregnant with another one, but I found myself frustrated with the state of affairs. My church also has a feed the homeless ministry that feeds meals to the homeless at a park once a month. One thing I can tell you- and you will see- from the work I continue to do with the homeless population is that you realize how much you don't need to survive. I have spent many of my weekends helping build homes through Habitat for Humanity and I even dabbled in door-to-door canvassing to raise money for the Democrats last summer. I know you like nice things (I do too) but you will really start to appreciate some of the most simple things. My quality of life is sooo much better here in California because I have learned to just appreciate the sun shining, the waves at the beach and just living life. I also took a job (you probably saw my e-mail) with a great company for much much less than I was making in DC, but I am happy. I am motivated to come to work everyday. Well, let me get off of my soapbox, but glad to hear that you want to contribute in that way. There is a lot of work to be done.


Muata said...

Reader Responses:

Glad to hear that you have seen that giving back to this group of people is important and an easy thing to do.

I encourage you to show up and just donate your time (not necessarily clothes or food) lend and ear and shake their hand! Make them feel as if they count.

This will truly make a difference, Muata!


Muata said...

Reader Responses:

This was REALLY very good. Great work. -TM

You are really a powerful writer.


Homelessness is a big issue that we are not addressing right.


Muata said...

Reader Response:

It's good to hear that your dear friend didn't find it funny, and allowed you to understand and realize what was in front of you. Amen to her!

It's also good to hear that you're taking time to give back, and do something about the issue. It is so easy for those of us that are not homeless to laugh and ignore. However, a lot of us are only a paycheck or two away from being homeless. Let's not forget our people, our humanity and our self respect that should be shared with others less fortunate.

BTW, I have, and still give clothes and other items to shelters and other needed sources. My family and I alike do it.


Muata said...

Reader Response:

What you write is poignant. If we don’t go out on the streets and give something of ourselves, then who are we? In Mexico (on vacation), I was served food and my bed was made by poor Mexican campesinos…. Yes, I bought their art (at cheap prices) and will display them proudly in my office---but did I once lift a finger to help the poor without expecting them to “serve” me? It’s so easy to adorn ourselves with the sweat and blood of the oppressed.


Muata said...

Reader Responses:

You sound like you are taking baby steps back to the man you used to be.....................................more action than rhetoric.


The man had to use the bathroom and you laughing...................that could've been you homeless on the street. Then you wouldn't roll down your window to give the homeless lady a dollar..........What has gotten into you Muata....


Muata said...

Reader Responds and Muata Responds:


...That is awesome. I applaud you for not just talking the talk, but actually walking it. I will look at what I can donate. My church, too has a homeless ministry, and we feed people every other Saturday. I have gone occasionally. What surprises me is that 90% of the attendees are homeless MEN. Our men are in danger and we don't even act like it. I went to a play that stated - If the same thing was happening to WHITE America, the government would declare a state of emergency. I believe that.



I do a lot of talking for sure, but I am committed to the upliftment of black people. I just believe we need to start within and not always attacking those on the outside. I am like my grandmother. She was hard on me and all of her family. It is her tough love that I remember when I feel cheated by an unfair system. It is her tough love that I remember when I am prepared to blame my self created issues on someone else. She put it in my lap. In my hands. And, she always talked about accountability and integrity.

My life immediately following Peace Corps was solely dedicated to the black community. I gave my all at the YMCA in High Pint, NC, and I was burned by our lack of appreciation and our lack of desire to move forward with personal soul searching work.

Thankfully, I moving back in the direction of giving back, but this time around I refuse to not acknowledge that we need to take responsibility for the mess we have created.

Peace, and thanks again!!

Muata said...

Muata's experience:

Well, this Saturday concluded two weeks in a row of me trying to incorporate another form of volunteering back into my life. I am glad I went this week. I was deadest on not going because I was exhausted, but something encouraged me to go anyway. It was another typical day, but it proved to be even more impactful after I noticed a familiar face. The face of a brother that I know.

He glanced then I glanced. We did this eye dance again & again. After I concluded that I knew him, I went to approach him - but he immediately became visibly uncomfortable, so I retreated. At that point, I knew that the young man who was waiting in the meal line was a Thomasville native. He is from my home town. Yes, small T-ville.

He was embarrassed/ashamed. I was so devastated that he felt that way. At that moment (for his sake) I wished that I would have stayed in the comforts of my queen size bed. Even with a simple bed I got it made compared to those men I greet on Saturday mornings.

He graduated from high school two years ahead of me. Such a small world. He is homeless and I am trying to brave it through the pain I see when I go to give just a token back.

As I mentioned in my commentary on this subject: “It could happen to anybody.” And, it happened to a resident of my home town. His new home can be found on the streets of Atlanta and his Saturday morning brunch is fish and grits served on a Styrofoam plate. I wonder if he will come back next Saturday? I pray his embarrassment will not force him to miss that free meal.

What I am committed to is EVEN MORE real and personal now.


Muata said...

Readers respond to Muata's last entry:



Well I guess you know I want to know who he is. I probably don't know him anyway. Hope he gets the help he needs.


This is so sad... I know it's not for me to ask who the person is, but you know I have to. Also is there anything we can do to help him. Can you find him? There are so many of us "Thomasville Natives" here. It saddens my heart not only for our brother, but for the rest of the homeless. Whenever we ( our office, used to have luncheons etc, I would pack up my car and take the leftover food d'town. Brian, it could be as simple as a hard bagel and people would grab it so fast off the tray. I just started crying.

At one point I would prepare sandwiches, fruit, crackers/water and a few cookies, put them in bags and go hand them out. It was my way of trying to help a growing problem. I'll have to find a way to begin doing that again.

Love ya!

Muata said...

Readers respond to Muata's last entry:

Keep up the good work, Muata.

If you can approach the brother with compassion, humility, integrity and understanding rather than judgement (and I'm NOT saying you were judging the brother), you should not his discomfort keep you from becoming reacquainted. Perhaps there is something for both of you to learn from the encounter... Most things happen for a reason. I doubt it was coincidence that you were in the same place at the same time...



Oh, my dear brother. This is so touching! Is there anything you can tell him or do to help his situation. It could be us. I thank God right now for his loving kindness and mercy. I love you. You have a heart through that tough skin. Smile! I am so afraid to say who is it? Who is it? DO I know him ?

Love ya! See whe need to stop foolish and help our brothers and sisters. As a black race we pull each other down. Our government...hmmmm. Lord, have mercy .


Muata said...

Readers respond to Muata's last entry:

Glad that its become a reality for you.



It is something, when homelessness hits home. There are so many people faced with this, most, out of no choice of their own.

It sickens me every time I see a new condo, or office building going up, and people still living on the streets. What in the world is this place...? Some people look up to us "One Nation Under God".

Keep doing what you're doing, my brother!