LaDena is a special education teacher that loves to write. She writes about things that interest her and things she loves!
On The Corner
“What’s your story?” I asked the man on the corner, asking for money. “Story?” he asked, “What makes you think I have a story?”
“Everyone has a story,” I told him, “But if you don’t want to share, I understand. “
“You’re right,” the man said, “I do have one. But you don’t wanna listen to this ol’ man’s story.”
I assured him that I did want to hear it. Slowly, hesitantly, he began.
An Ol' Man
His Story Begins...
I had a family once. A wife and two of the most beautiful little girls that you ever saw. God, I miss them. I haven’t seen ‘em since the oldest one was six and the younger one was four. They was at that age where I could really talk to them. I would tell ‘em stories and read them books. We had a lot of tea parties, too. They would put bows in my hair and paint my fingernails with marking pens. They loved it when I let them do that!
Ali, that was the older one, was in school. She just started and loved her teacher. Was always writing “I love you!” and drawing pictures for that teacher. Cassidy was going to preschool for three days a week. Both of ‘em smarter than anything.
My wife, she stayed at home with the girls. I worked for the railroad. I was gone a lot. Had to put food on the table, ya know?
Well, one day, I came home and none of ‘em were there. They were always there when I got home – nothing stopped them from being there. But they were gone.
The old man stopped talking for a minute. He had a faraway look in his eyes. He looked away and then back again. He looked as if he were trying to figure out if he should tell me the rest.
Finally, he continued.
Right about then I got a phone call. I didn’t wanna answer that phone. It rang six or seven times, then it stopped. A minute later it started ringing again. I had this feeling, ya know? I just knew I didn’t wanna hear what that phone call was about. It kept ringing, so finally I answered it.
I knew I didn’t wanna answer it. The first thing he said after he asked if it was me was that he was from the police department…I wanted to hang the damn thing up again, but I didn’t. I listened. I listened to some strange voice over a cold telephone line tell me the worst news that I somehow knew. There had been a bad accident. My family had been hit head on. The car rolled several times. This was before you had to wear seatbelts….
He stopped there. I was sure that I didn’t want to hear the rest of his story. I already knew how it was going to end…
He started talking again.
I had to make the plans. It was a nice service. But I didn’t wanna be there. I left and just started walking. I’ve been walking ever since….I never did go back home…it was just too hard….I couldn’t do it…
Deep In Thought
I’ve been everywhere, ya know? All over this country. Even went to Mexico and Canada some. But I always come back here. Makes me feel closer to them…but then I leave again cuz they ain’t here.
I could probably go back to the railroad. But they would all ask about my family…I couldn’t do that…
So now I just sit on the corner asking good people for money. About 3 or 4 out of every dozen or so give me a dollar or two. Some people give me food…some have offered jobs…some give me money. Some people just don’t get it and call me lazy and worthless…some have spit on me…one young buck tried to fight me….I just walked away from him. I really appreciate the people that help me out…
The Story Goes On...
I think the best place I’ve ever been was that Arlington Cemetery…so many good folks who died for our country. Some of ‘em just kids when they died. I can’t imagine that…or maybe I can. While I was out that way, I also seen that Vietnam wall. I missed Vietnam by a few years – but there are names of a lot of people I know on that there wall.
I’ve been to see that Mount Rushmore, too, and the Crazy Horse thing…took a lot of talented people to do those things…I don’t even know how they did it…there was a nice young man out that way. He let me stay with him for a few weeks…woulda let me stay longer, but I couldn’t handle being in a house that long…he put me to work cleaning up the yard and such…it was a mess! But I got it looking real nice…he paid me some money and that got me to the next place.
The next place was this ol’ farm I found. It was so ragtag and falling down that I didn’t think no one lived there. But there was this nice woman and her ol’ man that did. They had this field next to ‘em that needed some railroad ties stacked up and out of the creek that ran through there…I cleaned that up for ‘em. They gave me a little more money and a ride into town. They asked me to stay with ‘em – but I wanted to be along on my way. I asked them to take me to the bus station. They did – and gave me money for a bus ticket, too…I told ‘em they had already give me enough – they didn’t look like they had a pot to piss in – but they insisted, so I took it. I think it made them happy they could help.
I got off the bus in Phoenix…It was so damn hot there…but like everyone says – at least it’s a dry heat!
He laughed for a bit and then continued with his story…
Phoenix is where I found my dog. It was a little ol’ white thing…didn’t even come up to my knee…shaggy and dirty…you could tell he’d been on the streets for awhile, too…maybe as long as me...I called him to me and shared a sandwich with him…he followed me around so I decided to give him a name…called him Shaggy and he seemed to respond…he was the feistiest thing! Could do some tricks…he would stand up on his back legs and I’d pretend to shoot ‘em and he’d fall over like he’d died…he’d dance for his dinner…he did a lot more, too…he was with me for over a year, I guess…then he just up and disappeared…I hope some poor kid found him…
After Phoenix, I came back here. Something was just telling me I needed to be here…I never did find out why, but I just felt it was the place I was supposed to be. You ever see the soup kitchen over there offa Central? Worked there for a day or two…helping others that are kinda like me…on a different mission through life…made some friends…there was this one family…mom and dad and a little girl. It was hard to talk to them, but they kinda made me…the little girl was SaraLynn. Pretty little thing about 4 or 5…they had nowhere to go so I kinda helped them out a bit…told the dad he should call the railroad and see if they were hiring…he got a job out there…then I didn’t see ‘em no more…sure hope they’re doing okay…
That’s most of my story. Not a lot to tell…I’m just an ol’ man who’s been through some of the toughest times a man can go through…maybe I didn’t handle things well…but I handled them the only way I could…the only way I knew how…
Now…what’s your story?
- There are 564,708 people that are homeless in America on any given night
- 36, 708 of these homeless people are children
- 47,725 are veterans
- 269,991 are disabled and are unable to work
LaDena Campbell (author) from Somewhere Over The Rainbow - Near Oz... on March 14, 2017:
Thank you for reading! His story showed me how lucky I am, as well...
Fawntia Fowler from Portland on March 14, 2017:
Such a heartbreaking story! I was feeling sorry for myself this morning, but this man's story made me see how lucky I am in some ways. So thank you!
LaDena Campbell (author) from Somewhere Over The Rainbow - Near Oz... on February 22, 2017:
Thank you for reading, Genna! I am so glad that there are a few of us who are willing to give! I agree that a country like ours should not tolerate poverty - there should be many more resources to help those in need!
Genna East from Massachusetts, USA on February 21, 2017:
A magnificent hub, LaDena. I, too, give money every chance I get. I don't believe for a nanosecond that makes me a chump. When I look into the eyes of the people in your photos, I am reminded of that iconic photo of Florence Owens Thompson, a woman, holding her two children in the poverty of the Great Depression. How little things have changed. Each of our homeless has a story that deserves to be told; a life that should be respected. That a country as rich as ours can tolerate such poverty is unconscionable.
LaDena Campbell (author) from Somewhere Over The Rainbow - Near Oz... on February 18, 2017:
Thank you all for reading. ..and for being caring people!
Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on February 18, 2017:
Paula, your story touched me again. I love your rants and your kindness toward others. What could be better than a piece of pizza?
Jo Miller from Tennessee on February 18, 2017:
Beautiful story, LaDena. Thank you for sharing it with us. Most of the time, I've decided, most people are doing the best they can under the circumstances. I may be wrong about that, but it makes living so much easier when we don't judge others.
Suzie from Carson City on February 17, 2017:
Really? People say that most homeless people begging on the streets really "don't NEED the money?" I wonder how they've come to think such a curious thing? They distrust them? Have known scam artists whose career is panhandling? Refuse to give them money if they intend to buy booze or cigarettes or something other than food? Hmmm, I just don't think like that and I hope I never do.
There were several homeless people who hung out on the sidewalks outside my workplace in a city in WNY. One old man in particular showed up nearly everyday. He stood in a corner where 2 buildings meet and swayed back & forth from one foot to another, every now & then, screeching Scripture at the crowds passing by. Some days he would carry on loud, incomprehensible conversations with people who weren't there.
A few times, I took a break from work to sit down at the table & chairs, behind a pizza place in the building. The crazy screaming from this man sort of unnerved me after a while. People would scream back at him & laugh at him or tell him to shut up....but he ignored them (or perhaps wasn't even aware these cruel people were speaking to him.
One day, I brought him a slice of pizza and a cup of coffee. I looked at him and quietly said, "Hey buddy, could you please not scream today?" There was not a peep out of him for the remainder of the day.
Take that any way you want to. I think he merely responded to my kindness because he wanted to!
Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on February 17, 2017:
This touched my heart. You wrote it beautifully! I can't pass a homeless person on the street without giving. I gave $ 10.00 to a man holding a sign at Walmart, that evening two friends stopped by and laughed when I told them about it, saying, " I bet he made a bee-line to the liquor store. " I told them I didn't know what he did, but I knew I did the right thing. There are people hurting out there. Oh I know there are some cons, but if giving makes you feel good, then give, if you can. Great story!
LaDena Campbell (author) from Somewhere Over The Rainbow - Near Oz... on February 17, 2017:
I almost always give a dollar or two. People always say that I'm being taken advantage of...that many of these people who are begging for money really don't need it. But I tell them I would rather give and they not need it, than not give it to them and they need it....
Louise Powles from Norfolk, England on February 17, 2017:
Oh, that's such a sad story. There's so much homelessness about these days. It's the same here in England. There's so many charities who try to help these people, especially in the winter when it's cold. I do give sometimes to them, or buy them a coffee.