For a number of years, I wrote every day as a tribute to my son, who was unjustly imprisoned. I wanted to tackle the injustices found in our prisons and the legal system at large. I don’t know that I convinced anyone of anything. Maybe it wasn’t about that. Maybe it was more about giving the wretched a voice. Today, I want to share a letter I’ve written to a friend.
Dear Cara, I want to tell you about the people I met on the street. I am certain you’ve felt the bitter cold of single digit temps today and kept yourself indoors. I stopped at a traffic light located at the intersection of two plazas. I was in a toasty vehicle on my way home from grabbing a few groceries. In the median sat what looked like a dirty yellow bag of rags with a cardboard sign in front of it asking in black scrawled letters, “Please have mercy.”
As I approached, the bag shifted it’s weight and a face appeared from under a filthy yellow blanket. Remember the time you rode with me when we were working for Marge, and I handed a poor old dude standing under the overpass a five and you went nuclear on me? Well, I can just hear you lecturing me soundly about this one. Words like fool and lazy scumbag peppered with your creative cursing come to mind.
Did you ever take time to stop and ask one of these “lazy scumbags” why he or she wasn’t working like the rest of us? I have. Many of them don’t have any paperwork that proves who they are. It’s been lost during the frequent moving from place to place or they’ve been robbed and for some countless times. Do you realize how hard it is to get a license or one’s birth certificate in this state without proper ID or an address?
What about transportation? We don’t have light rail or a bus system that has more than a few designated stops. You just see a dirty lazy “scumbag” leeching off society. Our homeless shelters have turned people away due to the pandemic. We have very little affordable housing and the housing we do have is some of the highest for rents in the country because God forbid, we should have rent control. How anti capitalist is that? And you know what we do for those struggling with mental illness here? Unless you have exceptional medical coverage, nothing. We don’t even have a proper mental health facility. We throw people in prison who are in crisis.
So, Cara, I handed the shivering young man a twenty. It doesn’t even pay for a tank of gas these days. He started to cry. I heard him sobbing while he managed to tell me thanks as I pulled away. I started to cry myself. And before you lecture me on how to spend my money, I should tell you that I ended up at another red light and gave all the ones I had in my purse, maybe thirteen dollars, to an older man missing several of his front teeth
All you had to do was ask if you needed funds. You know, I would help you if I can. These people dumped their pride a long time ago and ask just to survive. I get to go home to a warm house. How much is that worth?