Letters

Letters 07-25-2016

Remember Bush-Cheney Does anyone remember George W. Bush and Dick Cheney? They were president and vice president a mere eight years ago. Does anyone out there remember the way things were at the end of their duo? It was terrible...

Mass Shootings And Gun Control The largest mass shooting in U.S. history occurred December 29,1890, when 297 Sioux Indians at Wounded Knee in South Dakota were murdered by federal agents and members of the 7th Cavalry who had come to confiscate their firearms “for their own safety and protection.” The slaughter began after the majority of the Sioux had peacefully turned in their firearms...

Families Need Representation When one party dominates the Michigan administration and legislature, half of Michigan families are not represented on the important issues that face our state. When a policy affects the non-voting K-12 students, they too are left out, especially when it comes to graduation requirements...

Raise The Minimum Wage I wanted to offer a different perspective on the issue of raising the minimum wage. The argument that raising the minimum wage will result in job loss is a bogus scare tactic. The need for labor will not change, just the cost of it, which will be passed on to the consumer, as it always has...

Make Cherryland Respect Renewable Cherryland Electric is about to change their net metering policy. In a nutshell, they want to buy the electricity from those of us who produce clean renewable electric at a rate far below the rate they buy electricity from other sources. They believe very few people have an interest in renewable energy...

Settled Science Climate change science is based on the accumulated evidence gained from studying the greenhouse effect for 200 years. The greenhouse effect keeps our planet 50 degrees warmer due to heat-trapping gases in our atmosphere. Basic principles of physics and chemistry dictate that Earth will warm as concentrations of greenhouse gases increase...

Home · Articles · News · Random Thoughts · The Giving Season
. . . .

The Giving Season

Robert Downes - December 20th, 2010
The Giving Season
There’s a man in our town who looks like a walking pile of rags. Ten
years ago, he was a well-groomed street person, handsome in a Brad Pitt
sort of way and wearing stylish clothes, like someone was caring for
him. But he’s dwindled down through the years to the visage of a
ragged scarecrow with long, knotted hair and a matted beard -- his
layered clothes in tatters -- shambling down the streets with the look
of a kicked dog in his eyes.
And he’s not the only one. In late November, while jogging a couple of
loops in the moonlight around the Civic Center here in TC, I noticed a
gathering of homeless men at the small amphitheater on the southwestern
corner. They were nestled in the darkness behind a screen of trees,
smoking their cigarettes and huddling against the cold. They‘re the
guys you see lugging all of their possessions around town in kiddie
trailers, towed behind bikes.
There’s also the Can Man, a well-known presence in town, who walks for
miles each day, picking trash for beer and soda cans and dressed in
heavy layers. Late at night, you can sometimes see him in silhouette,
sitting alone at a picnic table beneath the Civic Center pavilion as the
temperature drops below freezing. I saw him in the darkness there last
week with the thermometer at 23 degrees and going down... Does he sleep
there? How does he make it through the winter? One might conceivably
help this man for a day, but what about the day after and beyond?
Recently, I saw the ragged man standing in the doorway of a store
downtown, watching people walk by. He never seems to say anything --
just watches -- as expectant as a dog. A clerk came out and asked him
politely to move along; he seems to have an advanced case of
schizophrenia and scares the customers. It made me wonder, where can
he go? And what can he do?
Ironically, my office (and the place where I’m typing this column) is
located in a wing of what was once the men’s ward of the old Northern
Michigan Asylum. Today, it’s a renovated section of the Village at
Grand Traverse Commons and a prestigious address. But a generation ago,
the ragged man and the Can Man might have shared some bunks in what is
now our office suite. Perhaps they would have lived in my own small
office, protected from the winter cold by 18-inch brick walls and a
society that was poorer in possessions, and yet more caring than our
own.
A few years ago, while traveling through India, I saw an old man of 80
or so tumble down the stairs of his home and fall unconscious into the
gutter alongside the highway. “Shouldn’t we stop and see if he’s
alright?” I asked our driver. “No, someone else will stop,” he
answered, waving off the very idea. In India, no one would dream of
stopping to help an old man in the gutter -- there are just too many of
them, and they are someone else’s problem. They are their own problem.
Unfortunately, we’ve arrived at the same shores in our own country. We
wouldn’t allow a stray dog to wander around town in the cold for more
than a day, but a clearly insane person? There seem to be a fair number
of them out there. Quite possibly it‘s like herding cats to care for
them without the old institutions around to keep them under lock and
key, and perhaps they even prefer their freedom to being
institutionalized. The State begged off its responsibility 20-30 years
ago when it closed the “inhumane“ mental hospitals in favor of drug
therapy and the mercies of the winter, the blizzard, the cold rain, and
a camp beneath a bridge or in the woods just out of town.
Still, we try to do our bit, each in our own small way, even if our
government has failed to care for the people who need us most. We write
our end-of-the-year checks for charities, drop our dollars in the
Salvation Army buckets, give to Toys for Tots, donate to Manna, join
the Jingle Bell Run, drop off clothes at Goodwill, put an extra $10 in
the collection plate, box up canned goods for the food pantries, and
maybe if there’s a little left, send a check off to Haiti or some other
favorite cause.
But it never seems to be enough, does it?

 
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