|A grape hyacinth peeking out of last winter's leaves|
I talked with my sister Norma Jean on Wednesday, and she wondered why my posts have been getting shorter and shorter. I felt a pang of guilt when she said that, because I know I haven't been giving these Sunday posts my full attention. I've been in a hurry to get to the next part of the day at the coffee shop. Sometimes it takes a reminder for me to realize that my penchant for staying busy and engaged in my life can make me miss the moment. I'll try to slow down a little today.
There's a new friend I look forward to seeing at the coffee shop, a man named Lorenzo. He's been coming in daily for the last couple of months, and I recently learned that he's homeless. He comes in to get coffee and find a warm place to stay for awhile, as well as a place to hook up his laptop for wifi. I would never have guessed he's homeless, because he's well dressed and only carries a backpack with his meds and electronics.
The other day he came in with his face streaked with tears. He's never asked me for money or even given any hint that life is so difficult for him, but someone had found the place where he stashes his sleeping bag and clothes and taken the clothes and strewn his sleeping bags out into the rain. My friend John and I both really felt bad for him, but what can you do? Lorenzo is a tall black man in his sixties who seems to be pretty good health, but he told us that he's got a heart condition and although he has a case worker who is helping him as much as possible, he's unable to work in construction any more and is on a very small disability pension. Not enough to pay rent anywhere, it seems.
Lorenzo is a good-hearted person with a great sense of humor. When my friend Gene is there, the four of us will sometimes sit and tell stories and laugh for hours. John has offered Lorenzo his barn as a place out of the rain, but John lives in the country with a very long driveway, and Lorenzo has no way to get there from town. He did spend one very wet night there and John drove him there and back. We discussed an article that appeared in the local paper about the number of homeless children in Whatcom County. I was appalled to learn that this year, 854 students in K-12 are counted as homeless. That means they sleep under bridges and under tarps with other family members, according to that article. Lorenzo confirmed that they are indeed out there.
I am accosted for money from people on the street almost daily. You can tell most of the homeless who wander around because of their inevitable grocery cart filled with all their worldly goods. Until I met Lorenzo, I didn't realize that there are also vast numbers of invisible homeless people that I don't see. The children and their parents: where are they? My heart breaks for the conditions that allow such poverty to exist in the richest country in the world.
I went to see Michael Moore's latest movie, which he calls Where to Invade Next? He goes to different countries ostensibly to steal ideas that other countries have that he wants to bring back to America. Although the movie is long and occasionally very funny, it made me wonder why we have no social system to care for the homeless that is evident in almost every other country. Now this doesn't mean I'd like to live anywhere other than America (other than maybe Canada), but it did make me ponder the differences in our countries. Chris Knight is a reviewer who wrote a piece that pretty much says everything I thought about the movie:
At each location, Moore “steals” the best ideas he can find, leaving behind an American flag and a series of flabbergasted Finns, incredulous Italians, flummoxed French, etc. It’s both amusing and educational, but it tends to drift in the second hour, to the point where only the most diehard Moore fans won’t be starting to shift in their seats.Yes, even I was beginning to shift in my seat towards the end of the movie, and I've enjoyed every Michael Moore movie I've seen. I heard he was in the hospital with pneumonia right at the time this one was released. He is from Flint, Michigan, after all, and probably drinking the water. Plus he really doesn't take very good care of himself in any event. But he did create a thought-provoking movie. Apparently it's possible to download it and watch it free of charge. I would recommend seeing it that way rather than in a theater.
And then a couple of days ago, I had my own reality check, so to speak. Usually I really enjoy our 26-unit apartment complex, but I got a real shock in the mail: our landlord has increased our rent by 13%! I gasped when I saw the number and immediately contacted other tenants to see if they also had been ambushed (they had), or whether he is just trying to force us out. We've been here for more than eight years, very happy until now.
I called and talked with the landlord and he told me that the new number is slightly below market value, and if I wanted to pay another $50/month I could start paying month to month and not sign the lease. In fact, I did go and check some of the other places I've looked at as possible places to move, and he's right: everything has become more expensive. Everything has increased except our fixed income. But this place is NOT top of the line in anybody's book, trust me.
We decided to go ahead and sign the lease for another year, but we will be actively looking for some options. If they did it this year, they can do it again next year when the lease comes due again. That's the renter's dilemma and until now, I thought I had a decent landlord; in previous years the increase has been reasonable, but something has changed. It threw me for a loop, but I've recovered. This year, we can still make ends meet. But I fear for our future, not only personally, but everywhere within my own world.
And don't get me started on the election. I won't go there right now, but doesn't it make you wonder just what the heck is going on? I've got no power other than my own tiny vote and the ability to give money to the candidate of my choice, but even that's changed, now that I'll be paying more of my monthly income to the landlord.
Sorry that this post is such a litany of sad news. That picture at the top of the post was taken this week on a sunny day in an old orchard on my Senior Trailblazer hike. I need to remember that spring is on the way, when the grape hyacinth is beginning to pop out from under the winter's dry leaves, and it's only going to get warmer and sunnier from here on out. That's the wonderful thing about seasons: you don't need to stay in one place in life because it will change to something different. I'm looking forward to better days ahead.
I hope you will also have better days ahead, and that those of you in freezing temperatures will remember that nothing stays the same, it all changes. Those dear friends who are leaving summertime behind and moving towards fall, well I have to remember that even here on our blue marble, we have opposite seasons going on at the same time. I get so focused on my own little life that I forget to look up at the sky and be thankful. That's the best part of these posts: I get to remember to expand my horizons. Be well until we meet again next week, dear friends.