Saturday, May 12, 2012

Well, Now I've Really Gone and Done It

I know, I know...this is a book blog, but bear with me for a moment here...And yes, it's a long post, but awe-inspiring, I assure you!

Today, I hopped on Facebook for a couple of minutes between writing a highly dreaded review, beta-reading, editing, and yes...writing. Where's the reading you ask...a few more hours into the night. I hope. Anyway, I digress. While checking status updates and the like, I came across a post shared from my hometown newspaper and it got me to thinking about the state of humanity, if you will.

I should preface this by saying, the town I hale from had a population of 2,004 people in 2009, so...

What will we do about Billy? - The Eagle Press, Fritch, Texas

Editor’s Note: Many know of a local man who walks the streets in and around Fritch. Most are scared of him. Sometimes he just stands or sits by the road or in a field. Sometimes he is yelling at the unseen people around him. Most do not know that there is not much to be done legally for or about this man. Many in our community never expected homelessness to find its way to Fritch. The following is a post concerning Billy by a Fritch PD officer and his opinion about this issue reprinted here with permission.

By Officer Jeffrey Schiller
Local law enforcement departments have received hundreds of calls on Billy in the past few years. Billy, like 50% of this country’s 750,000 homeless people living on the streets every night, suffers from a serious mental illness.

I received a call on Billy this morning, like I have dozens of times in the past, and ended up meeting him in the city park, where he slept last night without a blanket. During our conversation I learned the only thing Billy had to eat for the past couple of days was a small bag of Cheetos, which I believe he found in the trash.

He didn’t complain though, and refused medical attention for the severe sunburn on his face. He didn’t ask for a hand out and didn’t complain about being bothered by the police again. However, when I offered to get him some food and a ride he humbly accepted.

I want to believe the shameful happenings in our country are due to a lack of awareness in most communities. I truly don’t believe anyone really knows that State and Federally funded mental institutions were shut down in the 70’s. I can only presume most people believe the homeless have options available to them for welfare, housing, food and medical treatment.

Well, it’s time to open some eyes… Ladies and gentlemen, there is NOTHING. No funding, no homeless shelters willing to house the mentally ill for an extended period of time, no mental institutions to care for them, NOTHING!

Where does that leave us? Currently, society has resulted to “shooing” the problem away by criminalizing homelessness; the ol’ “out of sight, out of mind” theory.

This has to stop and I’m calling on my brothers in blue to lead their communities by being examples of compassion. I am asking each and every one of you to spread Acts of Random Kindness and to help these individuals when you can. Whether its food, drinks, a blanket, a lift to an abandoned building on a cold night or even a pack of smokes, it doesn’t matter as long as you’re doing something.

As individuals our impacts on the “Billys” of our community will be small, but as a community our overall impact will be tremendous. With a little luck, the examples we set will eventually be reflected by someone who may be able to get Billy off the street.

Sadly, not many Americans know the poem inscribed on the Statue of Liberty. But engraved on one of the most powerful symbols of our nation you will find the following words:

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,
Send these, the homeless, tempest tossed,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”
- Emma Lazarus

Apparently our government has forgotten the promises She made to Her people. Therefore, it is up to Her people to stand up and respond to the atrocities we face right here in Fritch, Stinnett and Borger America. It is up to the communities to comfort their weak when they can by being compassionate, kind and humble. It is the responsibility of every Christian to ask his or her self “What would Jesus do?”

Whatever your beliefs, something must be done on an individual level. Each of us is responsible for the depravity Billy is living in, but fortunately we are also Billy’s chance for hope.

Mahatma Ghandi once said “Be the change you want to see in the world.” I speak from experience, and promise that if you can find it in your heart to swallow your pride and spare a moment of that “oh so busy” schedule to give just ONE SIMPLE Act of Random Kindness, you will make a difference.

Good luck my friends. I hope Billy’s story has at least touched one of you.

I am also proud to say that a dear and awesome friend offered these words on the post...only an excerpt of his awesomeness, I assure you. Oh, and did I mention a brilliant musician as well?
"The rules of basic humanity don't end when someone suffers from a mental illness. The rules of basic humanity don't end when someone suffers from an addiction. Did you ever stop and think why someone may have chosen to escape harsh realities through the use of mind altering chemicals? Or would you rather choose to think that only weak minded people choose this road? Now picture yourself suddenly without a job. You have lost your home and have no means to shower. You have no food and your clothes are falling apart. You are either too cold, too hot, wet, or sunburned. Now add on the increased pressure of knowing that people are avoiding you and just "wishing that you would go away".
No, I'm not trying to wage a war, only hoping people will take the time to think about those less fortunate than themselves and attempt to put themselves in another person's shoes for only a minute. It shouldn't matter whether you are democrat or republican, liberal or conservative...we're all humans and while some things may be a personal choice, many others aren't.

It is proven that many, if not most, drug addicts are self-treating a psychological disorder of some type, whether it be as common as depression or as rare as schizophrenia. No, most of these people don't even realize this is what they are doing. They've never been diagnosed, much less been treated. It has also been proven that addiction, in itself, is a mental illness set in motion by an imbalance of chemicals in the brain. (HERE'S a great article, Addiction: 60 Minutes that ran a couple of weeks back. Excellent information.) Oh, and if you're wanting some really great lyrics about this type of subject, check out Eminem's Not Afraid Video, you can find the Lyrics HERE. Whether you love him or hate him, this is a great tune.

Also, here's something else for you to think about...because the government has shut it's doors to the mentally ill, a much greater portion of healthcare, your taxes...are being spent treating Diabetes and Lung Cancer. Both, in most cases, preventable. Mental illnesses...not so much.

So...what am I asking of you? Two things really. 

You see, I believe the book world is filled with amazingly kind and educated people who want the best out of the world. We're artists at heart and we'll root for the underdog until he's been laid to rest and, quite possibly, even then. Who hasn't read the Shade Trilogy by Jeri Smith-Ready? Logan Keeley anyone?

First and foremost, I want to call your attention to the people like Billy in your area. I'm backing Officer Schiller's words and calling not only you, but myself also, to action.

I'm not asking you to endanger yourself or anything crazy like that, but, my sister simply carries extra protein bars and water in her car and when she rolls across a homeless person on the streets, she hands them food and water. She nor I any longer live in Fritch. We've both graduated to bigger cities. Me, only slightly, her...greatly. And if you can't do that...can you take a  minute to hold the door open for an elderly or disabled person? How 'bout a mom pushing a stroller? Can you offer a simple smile to someone who looks like they could use one? See...I knew you could do something. And guess what, it didn't cost you a dime.


Last but not least, THINK before you judge OR speak. I'm betting that somewhere in your life, long or short, you've made a mistake, something you'd like to change. I'm betting that someone said or did something harsh, causing you to feel hurt. Do you remember what your first heartbreak felt like...I do, it was horrible. Don't ever forget these things. Become self-aware and keep your humanity. Isn't there enough wrong in the world without us adding to it?

And people...perfection existed only once in humanity, depending on your beliefs. I'm not perfect, that you can bet your life savings on...not that anyone would bet against you...I couldn't list all my flaws if I had to, and, in all honesty, I don't want to be a perfect person, just a better person, on a consistent basis. Too much stress in being perfect.


  1. I think this is one of the most inspiring posts I've read in the blogosphere lately, or maybe even ever.

    In the past, I know I was just as guilty of passing these people by. I'd see them on the street and try hard to not make eye contact. I'd justify not helping them out by saying, "Oh, well, they'll only use the money to go get drunk."

    When I lost my job three years ago and wasn't able to find another (read: still unemployed, but at least back in school), I was lucky enough to have family who would take me in and make it possible to continue on. I could have been one of those people who ended up on the streets because no one cared. Since then, I've made it a point to try and help where and when I can. I don't have much to give, but I'll give if I can. And it never comes with a harsh judgment anymore. I figure I'll never be judged harshly for being compassionate and helping someone else out. And at least they know that someone cared that day.

    Thank you for an EXCELLENT post. I hope you get thousands of hits on this and people act to help their fellow men out.

  2. Ems,

    Thank you for the heartfelt comment. I have come to realize that Karma does in fact serve as the ultimate equalizer. I went to school to be a nurse and while doing our psychiatric rotation, I kept looking at those people who were "clinically depressed" and thinking...just get up and get over it. Yes, I really thought that. Then, in April 2003, one semester later, I lost my 5 year old son suddenly. My understanding of the laws of depression have increased dramatically, and suffice it to say, I no longer believe depression is something you "just get over."

    But, like you, I was surrounded by an amazing family who have stood by me and supported me through one of the most traumatic experiences of my life. I certainly hope never to experience such a thing again. It's 9 years later and I do good to get out of bed during the month of April.

    I attempt to go throughout my life judgement free and sometimes I slip and think...oops! I wish you the best of luck with school and hope you find a job. Thanks again for stopping by!

  3. "No funding, no homeless shelters willing to house the mentally ill for an extended period of time, no mental institutions to care for them, NOTHING!"

    This is news for me. I know there are shelters in general for homeless people (although they're probably overfilled a lot of the time), but I didn't know that there weren't anything that have support for those who are mentally disabled.

    Thinking about it, a lot more effort would be required to assist such people, yet the general homelessness problem is already too much to handle. Add to the fact that sometimes the government squabble over the silliest things...

    However, I've been taught to not interact with homeless people. The reasons I've been given is that they'll either leach off people, spend it all on drugs, or they're not really homeless.

    The latter case actually has an interesting story. In my city, on one of the bridges connecting two freeways together, there would be a rotating set of people begging for money. They would have their various signs, along with litter sprinkled onto the ledge and sidewalk. Occasionally, at a stop sign, someone would give them a bill.

    Dad told me that in the mornings, while he's driving to work, he'd see a car rotating these people around to various corners. I've never seen it in action, but Dad explains that these kind of people aren't really "homeless", in a sense.

    He's the sort of guy to joke about such things, assigning nicknames (like "the world's saddest woman") to each person. I no longer see them there (with Dad saying that they've moved on to other pastures), but I'm still not sure what those people are.

    Are they an organized scam, or genuine?

    I could say more about the issue, like when two girls approached Mom's car in the Philippines, but this is long enough already.

  4. Hey Chihuahua...I too have heard these scam stories and if you'll notice, the police officer nor I ever said anything about handing anyone money. I don't advocate handing money to a stranger, it's dangerous at best, and I have no way of knowing whether they are a scam or genuine, I only know that a smile or a hello doesn't cost me a dime and hurts me none. I know that IF they are truly disabled (mentally or otherwise) my extra snacks and water could save their life. I know that IF they are sad or lonely, my smile might have brightened their day a little bit, and in the grand scheme of everything, that's all that matters to me.

    Everyone has to choose their own paths in life and I've simply chosen not to judge everyone because of one or a group of peoples actions.

    Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to read this article. I hope you have a really great day!

  5. Ah, got it. No money, only a smile or a snack.

    Thinking about it, that's a good idea. Even if the recipient is addicted to something or even is a scammer, it's an act that does more good than bad.

  6. I loved this post! I was already aware of most of your points, just due to general life experience, but it's easy to forget how many people have misconceptions or just don't know a lot of this stuff. I live in Lawrence, KS (GO JAYHAWKS, lol) and used to work downtown (we don't have a mall, but we do have a historic downtown area) and several homeless people would walk up down the main downtown street. My coworkers and I became acquainted with some of them, one being a former college professor who had lost everything (I forget the particulars). He was a very well-spoken, intelligent man who just happened to be homeless. And he never once asked any of us for anything. There is one shelter in the city and it fills up fast, so most of the homeless population end up sleeping down by the river under the bridge. This is known as a problem in the community, not because there is a problem with the homeless not having anywhere to go, but because it is a "safety" issue for members of the community. Hopefully, with more posts & articles like yours & the police officer's, this country will recognize the real problems associated with homelessness & work to resolve those problems & reduce & help our homeless population.

  7. I agree Kelly. The thing about most homeless shelters is they only allow people to sleep there and you're right, they do fill up quickly. In mild weather, wondering the streets during the day might not be too terrible, I don't know because I've never had to do it, but in Texas, we spend most of the summer in 100+ degree temps with no cloud cover. Dehydration and heat sickness can kill someone quick if they don't have anywhere to stay. On the other side of that coin, I live in the Texas Panhandle and our winters can be pretty harsh,so...

    I think it's terrible that people with mental health issues have no where to go. Most psychiatric hospitals will only accept patients for no longer than 3 months, at least in Texas, after that it's out the door.

    The story of the college professor makes me sad. So educated and so lost. I'd probably want to bring him home with me. LOL. I take in wayward teens quite often, why not a college professor?



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