Thursday, September 7, 2017

Singing Through Life

The boy belted "I Am a Child of God" out with enthusiasm. When it came to singing, he did not have much talent but he did have desire. The chorister was a very talented chorister for such an inexperienced choir. Indeed, "overqualified" was an understatement in every way. She was skilled in music, a natural leader and exceptional teacher, so her spending her time teaching young kids who had little hope of becoming great, may have appeared to be a waste of talent. Why didn't the church have her oversee a large adult class or choir, or serve in a "more important" leadership calling? Such would have been far more fitting. But she had been asked to lead the off key youth, so that is what she did. And even with his lack of skill, she was willing to work with desire. She asked the boy if he would like to prepare for a solo. She and her equally skilled accompanist met on Saturday's and weeknights to help him improve his voice. In a short time he was performing solos for the little congregation. Was he great? No. But he was improving.

The work was not easy. They worked with him often and continued to lead the young choir. Now this is the exciting part. Can you guess what happened? The children performed in a choir that put the Von Trapps to shame? The young boy grew up to perform in the Met? Top the music charts? No, nothing so exceptional. Rather he grew with music being a significant part of his life that he shares with his wife, children and local congregation.

I love music. I play the piano on occasion for church, love to sing in choirs and, on occasion, still sing a solo at church. Joye Cummings was not the only influence in my life that pushed me towards music. No doubt, my parents who forced me, against my will, to play the piano (which I am exceptionally grateful for) deserve some of the credit. But as I attended Sister Cummings funeral this Summer, it struck me how much of a positive impact she had on my life. Music and the few abilities I have with singing and other instruments have greatly enriched me.

Joye Cummings, my primary chorister, passed away on July 22, 2017


Most of us who coach little league won't ever coach the next Bo Jackson. But we will coach many, perhaps hundreds of kids whose lives will be enriched by what we teach them. I am exceptionally blessed because of the volunteers in my life. That is why I wrote the article that was published in the Boulder City Review today (click here to read it). So while it may be a bit of a fluff piece, I truly am grateful for all those in any community, but especially here in Boulder City, who give so much time and effort to making our lives and community more enriched.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Drugs...It's always the drugs.



One of my favorite TV shows of all time is Monk. If you have not taken the time to watch every episode, I highly recommend you quit your job and stay home and watch them tomorrow. "You'll thank me later."

There is one episode, pictured above, where Monk goes to Mexico. The two detectives, when asked what led to the murder, answer, "Drugs...it was drugs...it's always the drugs."

"But the man drowned while sky diving," Monk puzzles.

"Trust me, Monk. It's the drugs."

Before I started interviewing homeless. I had the idea, and still feel many around me have the idea, that in many ways, that is the usually the answer for homelessness. "Why are they homeless?"

"It's the drugs."

Once I started interviewing people, I was surprised how often it was not drugs. Was drugs a significant issue? Yes. Was it the key issue for some. Yes (see story of Oswaldo). But the drugs we usually see as the problem...heroin, meth, cocaine etc... have rarely been the main issue with those I have spoken with.

Yet...it's still the drugs.

What do I mean? It really hit home when I met with Keith.

Keith and Tom in Denver

Keith came to Denver 8 years ago from Pennsylvania. (He has the red shirt). I met Keith and Tom sitting outside a Walmart in Lakewood, Colorado. (I'll write about Tom later.) We talked for a while and then Keith and I walked over to a local sub shop and got some food. His story was nothing out of the ordinary. He had worked some in construction in Pennsylvania but was between jobs when he met a girl online and rushed out to Denver to live with her. It lasted two weeks, and after that, he found himself on the streets. Eight years later, he is still there.

But what struck me most about Keith was the topic of conversation. When I approached, he asked, "got any cigs?" I, not surprisingly, did not.

As we walked towards the sandwich shop, he asked, "see any cigs?" hoping that I would notice any half smoked cigarette butts on the ground. Once we were walking out of the sandwich shop he said, "you know cigarettes are so much more expensive here then they are in Pennsylvania." We walked by someone else and he asked them, "you have a cig?" they did not. Then as we walked, he said, "do you have any money for me to get a cig?" A minute or two later, "I sure could use a cig." And then shortly after looking around he said, "It sure is hard to get a cig."

I would love to tell you this conversation was unique to Keith but it is very common among the homeless I speak with. Keith is not a druggy by most definitions. He is not hooked on meth or some other illegal drug. Yet almost 100% of his mental energy goes to an unfulfilled addiction.

I learned how he gets by, by living on the streets and food stamps. Meaning he gets very little actual income. The only cash he sees is from the very occasional odd job and from pan handling. This means that it is entirely possible that 100% of any money he sees, goes to cigarettes. I asked him if he ever looks for work. He looked at me as if the idea hadn't crossed his mind. I firmly believe that he is so in the thralls of this addiction that he rarely thinks about much else.

I felt awful for Keith. I feel awful for anyone trapped in addiction. I don't mean to diminish the negative impact from heroine, meth, cocaine, marijuana and prescription drugs, but I think if we were going to really peel back the true cost to society we would find that these hard drugs negative impacts pail in comparison to that of alcohol and tobacco. I think that you would find that while very few would say they became homeless because of alcohol or tobacco, it is almost universally part of the story.

If you follow this blog at all you will not be surprised to find that I hate homelessness but love the homeless. I do not have very many answers, but no answer that fails to recognize the debilitating nature of even what we see as "socially acceptable" and legal addictions will have the deep impacts that are needed.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

"people like to see blood"

Last night at City Council I saw everything I love and hate about local politics. (In regards to my hopes for the debate on the Hoover Dam Gateway see my article here. I admit I wrote this article before the council meeting, but after the meeting was glad I wrote what I did.)

I saw a large number of concerned citizens show their public officials they cared about and were willing to speak about an issue.

I saw good city politicians, who listened to both the presented information and the people.

While each elected city official spoke differently they all made excellent points.

Councilman McManus spoke about some significant issues regarding finances and the cost of the utilities. What had been presented was rosy and he was playing the skeptic. He did not attack the report or those who put it together but took a skeptic view of what it presented and where we were going. Professional skepticism is healthy and I thought he brought up some excellent points. I didn't agree in his final statement but thought overall he brought a lot of value to the meeting.

Councilman Harhay spoke of the fact that no mater how good or bad an idea this may be, now is not the time. The city is too understaffed to tackle such a huge project and we should wait for a different time. He is right on. Even under the most favorable circumstances this city is simply not ready to be moving forward with this project. High turn over is something the city will have to tackle and they will be hard pressed to get all the day to day done, let alone large, new, ambitious projects. He also pointed out he was glad the study had been done and that it brought a lot of value.

Councilwomen Leavitt agreed that now was not the time but added her gratitude for the information brought out in the study and reiterated that the goals were to not cannibalize existing business but to draw in new business. She pointed out that such a study would be important for long term planning and that such planning is valuable and necessary. She was spot on.

Councilman Shuman noted the scope was huge and likely beyond what we needed at this time but called for not giving up on perhaps finding something that does make sense at that intersection. Particularly he noted signage and visitors center. He also said that proper zoning should be considered for the future. All his points were excellent.

Mayor Woodbury was the quietest about the project itself. He was happy for the most part to listen to the presentation and others opinions. Mostly I was exceptionally impressed with his ability to keep calm and listen to others views even when the attacks became personal against him.

And that leads me to the one thing about Tuesday's council meeting that disappointed me. The unprofessional and personal attacks leveraged by some. True, these people made up a very small minority. Most of those who spoke did so with professionalism and spoke their views. Others however, made the attack personal against those who drafted the report and those who voted for it to be created in the first place. Such attacks are never appropriate but are unfortunately, to be expected from a few. But the most disappointing part to me was not even that such attacks occurred but how much they seemed to be encouraged by the general assembly. Good people who I respect seem to cheer at the attacks.

In regards to an upcoming fight Floyd Mayweather has decided to go with 8 ounce gloves. When asked why, he said, "because the people like to see blood."

I hope our political choices, even the words we choose, encourage by our comments, or cheers are never because we "like to see blood."



Thursday, August 10, 2017

StoryBook

This week I wrote a few thoughts I had on the StoryBook contract vote. You can read the article Here.

However a few other thoughts to add.

1. After the vote I heard some people say and write that Councilman Harhay had gone against his campaign promises by voting for this. That seemed crazy to me as nothing about this contract went against any thing he had promised, as far as I could tell. After all this contract conforms 100% to the growth ordinance.

2. If you read my article you will see that if I had to vote I would have voted with Councilman Schuman and Councilman McManus for a few reasons I outline. But while I disagree with the vote I was super pleased with the process. We had very professional behavior and the council showed it can be divided, express clear opposing positions, vote the way they feel is best and move forward. I am proud to call each of them my leaders and think they are a great council.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Boulder Cities New Rates

Boulder City has new utility rates. I write about some of my thoughts on the new rates in my article for the Boulder City Review and you can read it here. I am very grateful for a chance to write for the paper and appreciate my editor, but once and a while struggle with the titles they give me. I don't think water rates are the answer to attract families. I think our current rates might not encourage families but I digress.

But, in addition to what I wrote, I have had a few additional thoughts. One, while I do believe our rates need to be sustainable, I think the new rates are too aggressive. I think the city needs to run on a little bigger picture and see if we can't both be sustainable and maintain our status of lowest rates in the valley. The current rates seem very hasty and aggressive. I hope the new council will reconsider and look into new possibly lower rates.

The second thought is any family budget has two variables, income and expenditures. Most of us like to solve our financial woes by focusing on income. Meaning we'd rather get a raise then spend less money. I hope City Council is looking at both ends of the equation not just looking for a raise, so to speak, by increasing rates. I say this realizing that we do have real needs for infrastucture improvement. But I wonder if there couldn't be other cost savings as well. Something I have not had time to investigate just hope and trust those we elected are.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Chapter 2- The Ad

Reminder if you haven't read Chapter 1 here it is. You may want to read it first.



 Julie rushed in to her favorite café.

 “Sorry I’m…”


 “Late again?” Her best friend Becky interjected as she sat at the table across from her. “I planned on it.  You’re having Tuna on Rye with the Minestrone soup.”


 "Minestrone soup?  It can’t be Wednesday already!”


 “No Jules, it’s Tuesday,” Becky replied dryly.  This was clearly another subtle attack on her ‘too rigid routine,’ one of their many over-discussed topics. After years of trying to fix her with persuasion she now resorted to flat out defiance.  At least Julie felt it was unlikely she could forget which meal she took on Tuesdays after 3 years of eating lunch together.

"Well, I suppose I’ll  have to take Tuesday’s lunch tomorrow.  Maybe this way the waiter will actually get me my food before I have to request a "to go" box.

She probably shouldn’t have complained about the speed of staff because she wasn’t all the way through her complaint when a waiter showed up with food.

“You know," Becky began, "if your boss keeps you at the office till 12:10, he shouldn’t expect you back until 1:10.  Maybe you should talk to him about that.  I really miss the days when we could relax and enjoy our lunch break. Hey!  Speaking of Minestrone day, tonight is your big date!” she quickly brought up, knowing it was a topic she didn’t want to leave undiscussed.

No, I'm pretty sure my last date was my biggest date: 300 pounds big.  Photoshop is definitely the cupid of internet romance,” she replied.

“And you probably didn’t list ‘bitterly pessimistic’ under your profile, so he wasn’t the only one stretching the truth.” 

"Shrinking the truth," Julie interjected.

“Come on!"  Becky censured, "That date was over a year ago. And you're going to love Ricky.

“I am not going tonight, Becky. I don’t feel up to another blind date. You know I never said I would go.” 


“But you never stopped me from talking about it, and I would call that a passive agreement. Bryan and I have been working on setting you up for months now, and tonight’s all set. Ricky is showing up at your door at 6 whether you like it or not, so you really ought to be ready. Plus, if it doesn’t work out with Ricky, I found you another guy.”


“You haven’t even got me on the date and you already have another guy?”

Rather than respond Becky slid a portion of the newspaper across the table.




Local Professional Seeks Wife!!!

No contact required. Prefer 
to live separately. Offering $500 per
month. No previous marriages or
children please. Lifetime commitment
 required. Email response to 
yourhusband@hotmail.com

Julie was shocked, who could possibly be willing to pay $500 a month for a wife you have no contact with. The ad was so strange that she took a second look to ensure this was the real paper and not a hoax Becky had put together. After her short inspection, she surmised that it was indeed authentic. “He’s probably an immigrant who needs citizenship to keep his job,”

“And why would an immigrant leave no room for divorce?” Becky asked.  “I think he’s an OBGYN who doesn’t want to come across as a pervert.”

“No way, you don’t have to be married to be a respectable OB,” Julie retorted.  

“Well whatever the case, if Ricky doesn’t work out, then this could be your answer,” Becky said jokingly. “No more invasive mother issues, no more dates with weirdos, and hey--supplement your salary!”

“Yeah, just marriage to a weirdo--and not even real marriage.  Thank you, but no.  I’m not desperate enough to sign up for matrimonial prostitution.”

"Well, I'm disappointed, Jules. I was going to start a new job as a wife hunting agent with you as my first client. If it had worked out I could charge a 15% fee. That comes to ...", Becky paused as she thought. "$55 dollars a month." Math was never her strong point. "Just think, you could pay my internet bill every month."

"Your internet bill for my self respect." Julie interjected.

"Oh, well, Since you aren't interested in an extra $500 a month I had better go back to my day job. I will let you know if any higher offers come in. And in all seriousness be ready on time, Ricky likes punctuality." She finished her last comment in a hurried fashion, grabbed her bag, placed some money on the table and headed out of the café.

Julie knew her friend's rush was to avoid letting her make any derogatory statements, but Julie was determined, and as Becky got up she said, “Why should I care what Ricky likes?” Of course, Becky pretended not to hear as she walked out of the cafe.

Julie began to pick up her things, also placing her money on the table in a much less rushed fashion, as she did, a large man in his early fifties approached her from a nearby table. He was short and mostly bald and his teeth told her he had smoked for most of his life.

"Excuse me miss."

Julie hoped he was telling her she had dropped something, but from the past experience  she knew what was about to happen.  

"Yes?" she replied sounding as indifferent as possible.  

"Miss, as I was eating my lunch, I happened to notice you and was quite taken with your elegance."

Elegant huh? She hadn't heard that one before. When she thought of elegance she thought of women from the 1800's with big dresses and ....but a compliment is a compliment.

"Thanks," she said as she began to walk out. She knew men didn't approach you to simply tell you that you’re elegant. Compliments from men were sure signs of them wanting something, and Julie was not in the giving spirit. But before her goal of ending the conversation with a quick exit was realized, he continued.

 "Let me introduce myself," he said, hindering her forward progress. "My name is Harold." He put his hand out.  


Quickly her mind raced trying to figure how to get out of this interchange. She went ahead and shook his hand while she thought.

He gave an empty look as they shook, obviously expecting her name in return. The moment grew more awkward as silence continued: he, waiting for a name, and she, too busy trying to think of how to get out of there to realize it was her turn to talk.  

Finally Harold continued, and she was relieved as he let go of the hand, "Well I will be in town over the next week, we should meet sometime, maybe here…tomorrow… for lunch?"  

This was usually where Julie would simply say, “I’m sorry, I’m dating someone.” She used it so frequently that it no longer bothered her that there was no truth to it, but she worried that he may have overheard some of her earlier conversation, taking the boyfriend excuse off the table. But thinking of tables made Julie notice that the tables in this establishment were very top heavy. While she had eaten here many times, she had never noticed just how unbalanced they appeared, rather like a hippo on a unicycle. With this thought came the almost involuntary sway of the hip that allowed her to test just how stable these tables were. True to its appearance, the table a chair, and all it contained, quickly found the floor. The crash had caused all heads in the diner to turn her way.

“Allow me!” Harold’s chivalry kicked in like clockwork and as he bent down, she got out. As she dashed down the street the first thought was one of sheer victory. However, as her distance from the café became comfortable and the relief of being away from Harold diminished she began to feel rather bad. This feeling came from several sources. She felt bad for Harold, the café’s broken dishes, and the fact that she wouldn’t be able to eat at her favorite café with Becky for a couple weeks because Harold might be there. Her mother always said that if she spent half the time trying to find men as she did avoiding them, she would have been married long ago. What her mother didn’t seem to realize was just how many men out there were worth avoiding, and Julie was beginning to wonder if there were any worth finding. It was her experience the more men she found, the more men she had to find ways to avoid.

The debate between the side of her that wanted companionship and the side that disliked almost every man she dealt with continued to battle within her flustered brain, with interruptions now and then by the echoes of her mothers advice, all the way to the office. Finally, as she sat down at her desk, her practical side told the other two sides that they were being stupid and to stop their endless bickering so it could have some brain power to get some work done.

"Hey Juju bug," Larry said, inviting himself into her office.

Larry was someone who qualified as a man she worked to avoid. The fact that he worked in her office though, made it rather difficult. "The name is Julie, or rather Ms. Reid, if you don't mind," she said critically.  

"Well anyways, JuJu, I have got two tickets to see Garth Brooks this weekend, and I know you love country."

"I'm seeing someone Larry, you know that." She lied.

"Oh, he won't mind friends getting together to enjoy the concert. It's what we do after the concert that he might get upset about." Larry said, as manly as a 120 pound man can.

Her response was simply an irritated glare that would have clearly conveyed the meaning of "Get out!" to anyone with any sense. But in doing so, she forgot who she was dealing with.

"So, what do you say?" he quipped, anxious for a positive response.  

"No, my boyfriend would kill you. So while there is an upside, I still don't want to."

"Come on, Julie, these are great seats, give me a chance." He only called her Julie when he got desperate, or when the boss was around.  

"Larry you have to accept that I'm dating someone else. If that changes I will let you know." She said as definitively as she could. 

Larry showed a smile and simply said, "Everyone knows you really don’t have a boyfriend.”

His cool confidence worried Julie. Could it be true? Did everyone know? Yes, the lie was her tool to push off Larry’s endless pursuits, but it was so convenient that she started to use it for more then just avoiding Larry.  Co-workers trying to set her up...out came the boyfriend. Dinner party at the bosses place...boyfriend planned a nice night. Did they all know it was a sham?

“What do you mean? Of course, I have a boyfriend. You think I just made him up?”

“Oh, I don’t know, What's his name?"

She paused, in all this time she had never been asked his name and never thought to make one up either. It may be one of the miracles of the human brain that it literally had thousands of male names in its database, yet at this crucial moment of need, her’s was able to keep access to such data just beyond the reach of her tongue. With no name coming to mind, she finally shot back, "It's none of your business what his name is."

Clearly the pause made it very unconvincing. "Forget his name, huh? Quite a boyfriend," Larry said, half laughing. He was practically giddy about exposing her lie. Somehow he had convinced himself that if he exposed her imaginary boyfriend then she would suddenly be willing to date him. The thought brought warmth to his cheeks and made his whole face glow. “I have also noticed that you’ve been dating, he who must be left nameless for years, and yet no pictures. Look at all these lovely pictures,” he began as he started walking around the office, “Oh, here is one of you and your good friend Becky, updated just a few weeks ago. Oh, and here you are with your parents, and one with your niece. But where is the boyfriend?" 

As he went on, he felt like a detective on CSI about to lay out a 'who dun it'. “Oh, I see your screen saver is up. Look, there you are on the beach at a reunion. Hundreds of pictures you have loaded. Shall we wait to see if a boyfriend pops up?” 

Even with things going south, she wasn't about to give up her favorite excuse. "Even though he dislikes cameras, my boyfriend would not want me seeing Garth with someone else." She stated this with as much of a 'case closed' attitude as she could.

"Well, let me know if you change your mind," he said as he left the office, still gleeful from his partial victory.

Julie was left alone with the sad realization that, what only someone as socially inept as Larry would vocalize, was most likely going on in everyone’s mind.

Her mind became fixed on this idea of proving a boyfriend. Didn't she have a friend or relative who could pose as a boyfriend? A few pictures would go along way. The sad part was she couldn't think of any guys she knew well enough to pose in the photos. The only men she knew well were all at work, and pretending to date them was out of the question. Perhaps she could just meet a guy one night at a bar and pretend to be interested long enough to get a few good pictures.

As her mind raced over ways to show proof of her imaginary boyfriend she suddenly brought herself back to reality.  Why was she so desperate to perpetuate this lie? Being single was no crime. She didn't need to come up with some elaborate hoax.
She didn’t even want a boyfriend. Even with as big an annoyance as Larry, the real issue was her Mom. Her Mother was relentless.  She came from the old school of thought that any girl who isn’t married by 30 was destined for a life of loneliness and misery—not to mention financial destitution. Julie hadn’t been reminded of her age so much in one year since she was four and was prompted to show her 4 fingers every time a guest came by.  “You are 29, you know… Men don’t want to date a girl over 30 cause her birthing window is closing quick… Men want to have an heir you know…”  she wasn’t sure where her mother got that--|probably the History channel special on Henry VIII. Did she have to alter her life to appease her mother, push off Larry, and avoid Harold?

Tonight would be her first date in over a year. The last being a blind date
she met online that made her sick, both metaphorically and physically. Not only did he look nothing like his online profile picture, but his cousin had owned a restaurant that served Mexican-Chinese Fusion food. She had a re-fried bean stir-fry. It was shut down by the health department a week later. It was in her bathroom later that night, as the water chestnuts in Spanish rice made their way from her stomach back to her mouth, that she made a vow against blind dates.  That promise quickly put an end to her dating life and increased the need for the imaginary boyfriend excuses. Only Becky, her best friend, who even had the power to convince her to bungee jump, eventually wore her down. Becky's husband had been friends with her date, Ricky, since high school, Ricky's wife had passed away in a car accident a few years back. Becky had brought pictures and stories to convince her it was okay. It was true, he sounded normal and actually looked very handsome. He was about 6' tall with dark hair and brown eyes. Not fat, not bald, and not twice her age. He didn't even live with his parents and he maintained a steady job.  

While she didn't expect it, she was somewhat hopeful her blind date tonight might go well. She didn't expect to get that boyfriend she had been telling everyone about but she wouldn't mind a guy friend. Maybe one she could get a few pictures with.

Friday, July 21, 2017

This is great...reminds me of jail.


I approach the front desk at the hotel and ask, "So where do the homeless hang out in town?"

After an odd stare, he said, "Try the 99 cent store." This was the first time I had gotten this advice and it would prove valuable on several occasions, (Here is a story of someone else I met at a 99 cent store) not just in Redding California.


Upon arriving at the 99 Cent store, I did not see any homeless but did see two security guards. I approached them and asked, "Don't homeless people tend to hang out here?"


"Not any more." They laughed, clearly proud of having done their job.


"Do you know where they do?"


"Try down by the safeway...and tell them the 99 cent story guards say hi." They laugh again but then add, "Just kidding, don't tell them that."


On my way to the safe way I see what appears to be a homeless man with a small dog. I walk fast to catch up. "Do you know where the safeway is?" I ask. I really wanted to ask, ,"Are you homeless?" but it's a bit of an odd question, so I stick to directions to the store.


"Yea, right there." He points across the street, and we both begin to cross. I introduce myself and learn his name is Carlos Perez.


"Where you from?"


"Florida."


"What are you doing in California?'


"Just trying to find work."


At this point I am very confident he is homeless and decide I'll take him to dinner and find out more then. "You hungry?"


"Yeah."


"You want to get something to eat?"


"Yeah," he says with a smile.


"You have time to sit down?"


"I got nothing but time."


He is drinking what appears to be beer from a Nalgene bottle as we walk.


"So you're looking for work?"


"Yea, I had a job, but I blew that because I didn't have a phone to call in when I didn't show up. I did work on a farm up the highway a ways, but they pay me in weed."


He says it so casually that I assume I misheard him. "Did you say weed?"


"Yeah, weed and wax."


"What's wax?"


"Its made from the oil of the stock. See weed is like 24% TCH and wax is like 84%. It gets you high way faster. But it's too common in California, so it is not worth anything, but if I could send it to Florida it would be worth tons of money. Then I could go home with some real money."


It amazed me how casually he would discuss multi state drug trafficking with a total stranger. But not having much use for the ins and outs of weed dealing I moved on to another topic.


"Why'd you leave Florida?"


"Me and my girl wanted to travel. I'm a traveler, not a hobo who stays in one place. But my girl and I got in a fight and she left last night."


"Where do you stay?"


"We are lucky, we have a car. I'm not licensed or registered or anything but we get around. It is an old truck with no windows and shakes violently when you go over 25, but that is usually where we sleep. But I can sleep anywhere, after all it's just sleep. You do need to know where it's okay to go. Wal-Mart is the best. I've never been kicked out of a Wal-Mart. They let you sleep around the fence or in the lot."


"What about when it gets cold? Do you go to a shelter?"


"No way, I hate shelters. I just bundle up with lots of clothes or put my dog on my chest. If I need gas to run the heat I just sit on the corner with a gas can and people will get me some."


"So how long have you been in Redding?"


"Too long. I hate it here. Everyone is on drugs. This is the meth capitol of the world. That's part of why me and my girl fought, she has been clean for a year but has slipped back 3 times and it's hard here. I've never done that stuff. I don't want any part of it. It's just too addictive. Alcohol is bad enough. " He says, gesturing to his Nalgene.


We enter the Black Bear Diner and stand by the, "Wait to be Seated" sign. We are standing there for several minutes while we continue to talk. Several waitresses walk by. Finally after uncomfortably long I stop one and say, "Table for two." Carlos has his small dog with him. The dog has a vest that has a patch sewn into it that says, "Service animal." The waitress does not ask about the dog, but does lead us to a side room that has a few guests finishing their meal and puts us in the far corner.  It appears that this is the portion of the restaurant that they close earlier than the rest but decided it would be a good place to put us.


"So did you grow up in Florida?"


"I grew up all over. My Dad left when I was 5 and my Mom kept going back and forth between Puerto Rico, Massachusetts and Florida."


"How long have you been on the road?"


"For 4 to 5 years now. I love being a traveler, it is so eye opening not being a slave to work. I'm not lazy, and I like to work, but the rules don't apply to me." He stops, gets very serious and point to himself says, "For me, this is a choice. Some people are out here because they lost their parents or were abused and run away, but not me. For me, it's a choice. My family are still back in Florida, my Mom and my boy."


"You have a son?"


"Yeah, he is 16 years old, lives with my ex. I love my ex, we had our differences but we get along and she lives by my Mom and brother, all in Daytona. I also have a 22 year old daughter but I don't know where she is. She is a rebel like her Mom. I hate that woman. I was 15, had sex for the first time and found out she was pregnant. I stayed with her for 5 years, but she went crazy and disappeared."


I couldn't help but see my own 5 year old little girl and couldn't stomach the thought of never seeing her again.


"So do you see your boy?"


"Oh yea, he lives down the street from me." He speaks of his Mother's home as if it is his own, and even though he hasn't been there in 5 years, considers it so. (I wrote about his idea in How Many Ways is He Homeless?)


"Yeah, I was a Mason in Massachusetts making like $1,200 a week but I needed to be close to my boy so I moved to Florida and was only making $290 a week as a cook. But it was worth it to be by my boy."


It get's silent and I don't want to ask follow up questions because they will all lead to the obvious question of, "why did you leave then?" So I change the subject.


"What's your dogs name?"



"Her name is Black Dog."


Black Dog has been quietly, obediently sitting this entire time.  I realize I have been now waiting longer then I have ever waited at a restaurant. We are now the only ones in this room and I finally get up, find the lady who sat us and tell her we are ready to order.  She apologizes profusely and says she will  quickly send someone.


Shortly after I get back, someone comes to take our order. Carlos gets a Reuben.


"So why California, I ask?"


"I started traveling a little bit at a time. Each time I would get a little further from Florida. Then one day I met My Girl at a rainbow gathering and we decided to try California.  See, at the time, I had this really cool RV. It was the total party bus. I liked to paint and do like body art and tag. So my bus was tagged inside and out. We finally made it to California and a guy come up to us with a garbage bag and I say, 'What's in the bag?' He throws it down and it's full of weed--10 lbs. of it. And he gives me a little handful. I was like, 'I don't have the money to pay for this.' He said, 'No need, welcome to California!' So we decided to stay in California."


"What's a Rainbow Gathering?" I ask, again trying to get off the weed topic.


"They are where woods people gather and have festival. It comes from the ancient nature prophecy that said when the world is falling apart that it will be saved by the rainbow children who will bring back unity. There is some really good rainbow groups on Facebook and stuff. I can show you how to get involved. They are really good people."


Again I realize it has been really long, and I have to get up again and find the waiter. He again apologizes, and shortly after, our food shows up.


Carlos looks down at his Reuben and with a huge smile says, "This is great! It reminds me of jail."


"The sandwich?"


"Yeah, there was this jail in Keystone Colorado. It had the best food! I loved it there. I wanted to stay but got out. Actually I was surprised they caught me. I had just tagged this police car with a Sharpie, and some officers came up and said they knew it was me. I totally denied it, but then they asked to see my pockets and found my Sharpie markers. I should have thrown them in the dumpster. The jail was awesome, but the officer was such a jerk that I told him I would never come back to his town."

The irony of this statement was thick.

"Are most jails okay?"

"No, just that one. The one I spent a few weeks in Florida for having some weed was the worst. They gave you like one hard boiled egg, and that was your lunch. The conditions there were awful."


We get back to talking about the Rainbow People and he notes, "If you go on Facebook and type 'Rainbow Family' and request friends they will let you know when the next gathering is. I always tell people a gathering is like the Robin Hood movie with Kevin Costner when they go into the woods. I told you  about the prophecy and it totally makes sense, who knows how to get by without electricity? The rainbow people.


"Do you have Facebook?" He asks.


"Yeah, I just got it. I had avoided it for a long time." I admit.


"That's good. Most divorces today are because of Facebook. That is part of why my girl and I fought. I saw her phone and read some of her Facebook messages to other guys. She got all mad saying she is allowed to have friends. I was like, 'friends don't say that to each other.'"

By this time I had long since finished. Carlos had only finished half his sandwich but it was clear that was all he was going to eat. I again went into the restaurant to find someone to get us a check. Again, a profuse apology.


After we had paid, we walked out and Carlos asked if I wanted to hang out. I told him I had better get to bed, but at the stop light before I crossed he told me one more story. I wrote about it earlier and you can read it here. Anyone can see Carlos's life was full of contradictions. His decisions to travel versus his desire to be by his son. His disdain for drugs, and his love of Marijuana. His divorce vs. his love of his ex wife. His love of Keystone jail and his determination to never return. We all have contradictions in our lives and Carlos's contradictions made the Serpentine Stone story all that much more poignant. If you have not, I hope you read it.


But I cannot leave the story of Carlos and not address the mistreatment at the restaurant.  I do not think the restaurant purposely mistreated us. My guess is the lady put us in the corner of our own room because of our smell. Carlos's smelled about how one would expect a guy who had been sleeping in an old truck for weeks without a bath to smell. And Black Dog probably wasn't helping the smell much either. Given this, maybe the back room wasn't a bad place. After that, the total neglect, I think, was because they were busy and forgot about us. It was a room they didn't usually use that late, so to get to us was out of the routine. But purposeful or not, it was neglect.

I think most of our neglect of the homeless falls into this category. We don't mean to hurt, ignore or put them down, but to help them is out of our routine. Especially to really help them. So they get put in the back room, the homeless shelter, the bad part of town, and we get busy and forget about them. If we want to really help the homeless we have to get out of our routine, we have to step out of the day to day busyness of our lives, call a personal timeout and remember the back room.





Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Interviews

Several years ago, I made a goal to, once a month, find someone whom I wanted to emulate and interview them. I have not been as diligent at this as I originally intended, but those I have interviewed have brought me great insight.

One day in Sunday School we were talking about marriage and a gentleman raised his hand and told the class about something similar he had done. Years previous he had been through a divorce and was looking to remarry. He wanted his marriage to be successful so he began interviewing couples that had been married for a long time. (I think it worked he has a great marriage). I encourage all to do the same. Whatever you wish to improve or learn about, find someone who knows or who has been there before and go have lunch with them.

Most recently, I had lunch with the man who made that comment in Sunday school, our retiring City Attorney. You can read about it Here. Special thanks to Dave for taking the time to meet with me, it was great.

On a final note, don't delay the chance for such meetings. I had a wonderful interview with Bruce Tschuntz just last year. In many ways that interview changed my life. He was a key player in the Carter Administration in drafting the first Dam Safety Guidelines, and the first Cheif of Dam Safety for FEMA. I am so glad I met with him. I just found out he died a few weeks ago.

I highly recommend taking the time to interview great men and women and highly recommend you start today.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Chapter 1: The Professional

Eye contact is a powerful thing. Empathy, love, passion, confusion, distress, panic and a plethora of other emotions can all be conveyed between our nose and eyebrows. Pure disdain is another one of those fun emotions that eyes can send from one person to another. That message was coming over loud and clear from Mr. Johnson to Dr. Lewis from the moment he had walked into the office. But, to ensure the message wasn't lost in translation, Mr. Johnson sent it over and over and over again. The forced presence of husbands in their office was something every marriage counselor was accustomed to, but in his experience with Mr. Johnson, this usually was exhibited in simple indifference. No, something was clearly on the man's mind beyond just his disintegrating marriage and the regular contempt any man has for another man who keeps asking him, "How does that make you feel?" No this was clearly something more. As Mrs. Johnson told a story about how Mr. Johnson totally ignored her during their last assignment, which was to discuss why she was originally attracted to him, Mr. Johnson did a very good job of reenacting his indifference to her and instead was focused completely on the doctor. Dr. Lewis himself was usually a very conscientious listener but it was hard to focus on Mrs. Johnson's words with Mr. Johnson’s glare demanding so much attention. Dr. Lewis tried to press on, "So, Mr. Johnson, why do you think Mrs. Johnson feels you weren't listening?" Mr. Johnson paused and, in a rather supercilious way, remarked, "I'm not sure. Does your wife ever assume you're not listening?" Dr. Lewis was used to clients trying to get him to interject his personal life as an example, some were innocent, but increasingly they were less about curiosity and had more of a sinister nature. From the tone, Dr. Lewis feared this was more likely the latter. But, treating it as innocent, he calmly said, "It's important we focus on your situation. There is no value in looking at mine." "Oh, okay. Well, since you don't want to talk about your situation," Mr. Johnson's tone had not improved, "we will only talk about mine. So, why didn't she think I was listening. I may have not had good eye contact. Isn't eye contact important?" His eyes continued to pierce into Dr. Lewis, proving that at least under certain motives, Mr. Johnson's aptitude for eye contact left nothing to be desired. "Yes that is important, but could it have been more than that?" The doctor was doing everything in his power to avoid what he knew would turn into an awkward situation, but deep down knew what was coming. "Or maybe I was stressed. You ever have a stressful day?" Dr. Lewis at that particular moment was very prepared to answer this question, but before he could tell himself to hold his tongue, Mr Johnson added. "What do you do when you get home all stressed and your wife wants to talk?" "Again, Mr. Johnson lets focus on your situation." "Good, I want to know what you do when you are in my situation." Directly trying to maneuver away from his personal life was clearly not going to work so he tried the old, answer the question they should have asked, "Your wife deserves open, honest conversation. So if you need a break to de-stress be open about it." Mrs. Johnson at this point began to interject, "But this was on a Sat.." "How would you know?" Mr. Johnson cut her off, demanding all the attention the little office could offer.
"What?" Dr. Lewis was beginning to expect some confrontation but this was more aggressive than he could have imagined. Recomposing himself a little, Mr. Johnson clarified, "How would you know? Have you tried it?" Dr. Lewis was now getting a bit defensive and his response was not his usual tranquil tone, "I have a doctorate from the University of Connecticut, worked for one of the most prestigious clinics in America, counseled hundreds of couples. I am very qualified to discuss these situations. Mr. Johnson was pleased to see he had gotten under the Dr's skin, and it was with a smile that he sat back in his chair and said, "And yet with all that, no real experience. Come on Jen, lets get out of here." He stood and did the only thing he ever looked forward to doing from the first day he had walked into this office, walked out for the last time. Mrs. Johnson was conflicted, she looked at the doctor in a panic, but the heap of mangled ego that was left of him was far from the pillar she would have needed to help secure her decision. The only strength was leaving the room and she followed it. It was not the fact a disgruntled client walked out that left Dr. Lewis in such a worn state. He had faced it before and would face it again. It was the increased frequency of such occurrences. It was no mystery to Dr. Lewis where Mr. Johnson had discovered the fact that in manners of love, the Dr. was a bit of a novice. A client several months ago,who blamed Dr. Lewis for his failed marriage, had used his knowledge of Dr. Lewis's bachelorhood to flood the internet with scathing reviews like, "Why does a man who has never said, 'I do' get to tell me what to do in my marriage." If Dr. Lewis hadn't been so devastated, he would have had to admit that one was pretty clever. Since these had picked up, his clients had dropped off. There were always men who were looking for a way to get out of counseling, but Dr. Lewis had always prided himself on the fact that if they just gave him a little chance, he could help. He had saved so many marriages that had started their counseling with reluctance. Now he was worried no one would give him a chance. They had their out. Inaction was not something Dr. Lewis ever accepted. Every problem had a solution, and suddenly it was crystal clear. The solution was easy. "Yes, it wasn't mainstream, but that doesn't make it wrong," his mind quickly countered. He always counselled his clients not to make life changing decisions under the duress of hurt feelings, and although that same counsel echoed in his mind as he now found himself rationalizing what he would have described as an irrational life choice in a counselling session, he felt himself dig in his heels against his own good advice for the same reason many others had ignored his counsel: because he wanted to. The only question was the method to deliver the message. The internet made the options and reach almost unlimited. Foreign market was fairly good. No, better keep it close to home. It took only a few minutes to create a new hotmail account and, surprisingly, no one had taken the handle yourhusband@hotmail.com. Next, to the Gazette Classifieds. Local professional seeks wife.
Here is a link to Chapter 2.


Saturday, June 24, 2017

Myth #2- You Should Live Within Your Means


Living within your means is the mantra of the conservative side of the financial world.  I know all those who say this mean well. I have even said it, but the problem is many see this as the financial ideal.  And here in lies many of Americas financial problems.  Living within your means is not a wonderfully lofty goal.  In fact, it is a clear way to financial stress and ruin. 

The problems with the “Living within your means” philosophy is multifaceted and I will seek to dissect a few of these facets.

The first problem is that is sets the bar way too low.  We see our goal in life to get to this great time when we will live within our means.  Since that is the goal we always see it as okay to postpone.  It’s the goal not the necessity. So, we get ideas like, “I will live within my means when I am done with school, when I get my next promotion, when I get my professional license, when my kids move out, when my kids get out of college or when my wife goes back to work.”  We are always one raise away from the great goal of “Living within our means”.  Which ties closely to myth #3- Making more money will improve my financial situation.

I wonder when this phrase came along, because you don’t have to go too far back when living within your means wasn’t a goal, it was a necessity. It wasn't, "you should live within your means." It was, "Thou shalt live within your means." For so many what was the floor of our grandparents is now our ceiling.  The idea of “I don’t have the money, so I won’t buy it” has turned into “someday I will have the money to afford what I’m currently buying”.

The second problem is what many define as “Living within their means”.  For many people living within their means is another way of saying, “living paycheck to paycheck.” See many people say, “I live within my means but I had to take debt because my car broke down, I needed a root canal, or I got furloughed from work.”  To these people the concept of living within their means is that their fixed expenses equal their fixed income.  Living within your means should not mean your fixed expenses equal your fixed income because that leaves no room for emergencies which will eventually happen.  Because living includes all those things they are part of your living, the problem is many of us don’t make all our living part of our financial plan.  This leads to excessive stress whenever these unplanned instances occur.

But even if you do include some for emergencies you are not necessarily fully “Living within your means”.  Why? Because you may be living within your means for this week or this month but let’s take a much bigger view to think about what truly “Living” is.  See, life starts at birth, I know this likely doesn’t surprise anyone.  But once you are born your life starts and lucky, for most of us, someone else, picks up the tab for the first 18, 20, 25 or even now sometimes, 30+ years.  At some point most of our parents will have enough and we either leave or are escorted to the door.  For many of us that means some form of education or training.  Rather than work to pay for this, or all of it, most Americans choose to have someone else pay for this period in their lives too, promising that someday when they’re making the “big bucks” they will pay it back.  So now you’re 25, 30 or 35 depending on how much education you got or how much you dragged your feet, and are prepared to live on your own/pay your own way.  Most Americans at this point do not start “living within their means” because after all they are just getting started but let’s say for argument that you do.  

You are 25 years old and you now have a point where you can earn equal to what it cost to sustain yourself.  So you do this until 65 or in other words you put in a good long 40 year career.  You decide to retire and have Social Security, Medicare and a pension pay for your expenses until the day you die at 90 years old.  So in our circumstance you lived 90 years and worked for 40 to pay your own way and let others cover you for the other 50.  “Wait a minute”, you’re thinking.  I paid into Social Security and all those other things so I am covering myself.  Yes and No.  Yes you paid into them, but if you live 80-90 years you will take out far more than you put in, that’s why those programs are going broke.  The same great math minds that want to work for 40 years and get supported for 50 set up those programs and are finding they don’t work. 

So what’s my point? If you truly want to live within your means then you need to earn and put into society as much in the 40 or so years you work as you took out in the 90 years you lived.  And I don’t know about you, but I hope to put more into society than I get out.  I realize just because you’re not working full time doesn’t mean you’re not giving anything to society and money is only one measure of contribution, but you get my point.  Truly living within your means does not mean that you earned as much this month as you spent.  Truly live within your means, means earning far more than you will spend, especially during your most productive years.  Also, hopefully you have enough to do what your parents did for you and pick up the tab for someone else for the first 18 to 30 years. 

So, by most people’s definition we need to be living far below our means, that is the real financial goal. I believe that is the secret to success and low stress in your financial life.


Myth #3- Making More Money Will Improve My Financial Situation


Myth #3: An increase in income will improve my financial situation.

Who wouldn’t love a raise? A little extra money can always help, right? Not necessarily. In the US, one might even say that more financial problems are caused by increased incomes than by a lack of income. Yes, more. In fact, for many people, the worst thing that can happen for their financial situation is a raise. But how can an increase in income actually hurt your financial future?

In 1983, just a few months after my own birth, a young man was born in the Texas. He was athletically gifted, and he grew up playing football. He got a full-ride scholarship to play at UT at Austin, and in 2006, he played quarterback going 13-0 and winning a national championship. At this point in his career, Vince Young looked unstoppable. 



It seemed clear that he was destined to be a franchise quarterback with a long career in the NFL. He was drafted third by the Tennessee Titans and played with them from 2006-2010. From 2010-2014, he bounced around from team to team as a backup, but he ended up retiring from football in 2014. Over the course of his 8-year football career, he made approximately $35 million. However, after only a few months out of the league, he filed for bankruptcy, showing a total of $500,000-$1 million in assets and debts between $1 million and $10 million.

This scenario plays over and over when it comes to professional athletes. They start making more money than they ever imagined and begin spending it faster than they make it. They get ripped off, they buy homes and cars on debt, and they never stop spending. They assume their stardom will never end. Then injury, issues with coaches, age, and many other issues arise and compound, and before long, their career is over. In Vince’s case, he bought a mansion and several cars on credit and spent very lavishly. At one point in his career, he averaged $5,000 a week at The Cheesecake Factory (I am not sure how this is even possible! ). By the end of his career, he was so hounded by debt collectors that his coach admitted that his financial issues contributed to his termination with the team.

Did his huge salary actually help him achieve a financial future? Without such a lavish income, would he be facing as much as $9.5 million in the hole? Of course not. His inflated income was a key factor in his financial ruin.

You might say that this is an extreme example. You might not make millions a year but could use an extra thousand or two, right? Well, I share this story, extreme though it is, because it is full of the mistakes that I see all the time in people’s everyday finances. First, careers bring ups and downs. When financial planners sit down and plan your financial future, they look at your income as a steady slope of perhaps a 3%-5% increase a year throughout your working life. This may be a good average, but we will all face setbacks, with times of plenty and times of shortage. I have been out of college for 11 years and have indeed had salary increases but also salary cuts and a layoff. Many of us might get sick, have to take time off to care for someone else who is sick, or be forced to work less for other personal reasons. Our industry may shift and leave us without work for a time, or our company may fail due to mismanagement. We have no guarantee of future income.

Second, the problem for many of us is that, when we get an increase in income, creditors are more than happy to sign us up for a credit increase. In other words, when income increases, so does our ability to acquire debt. I saw this in the story of a homeless man I met in Colorado named Tom (I’ll tell this story later).

Basically, I look at how we spend money as far as our future goes in three categories. The first is saving or paying down debts. Second, we pay cash for things, and third, we use money as a down payment to acquire something on debt. When we save or pay off debts, we improve our financial future. When we spend cash on something, it could be wise or unwise, but it doesn’t enslave us to future debt. For example, when Vince Young was paying $5,000 at the Cheesecake Factory, it wasn’t what bankrupted him (as long as it was paid in cash). But when we use our new income to acquire new debt, we put our future self in bondage, and this usually hurts our financial future.

So how do I decide if a raise in income will actually help or hurt my financial future? The question to ask yourself is this: will I spend this money so that, in the future, I will need less income to live my life? Or will I spend this money in such a way that I will continue to need this level, or more income in the future? Basically, do my purchases make me more dependent on money or less dependent?

So, be honest – would an increase in income help or hurt your financial future? Would you pay down debt or use it to get more? We should all think about this issue and not just assume the very prevalent myth that an increase in income will always help our financial future.
In case you missed it

Myth #1- A Penny Saved is a Penny Earned

and

Myth #2- You Should Live Within Your Means

Thursday, June 22, 2017

We Don't Want Your Kind

Tony and I at Taco Bell in Sacramento

As I drive up to Taco Bell I see three people, covered in dirt and ragged clothes, dash across the street with large garbage bags. I assume the bags are their belongings but I have no idea why the rush to the smoke shop they now approach. I park and begin to walk a little.

I walk a block or so and am on my way back when I run into Harlin, one of the runners. As he approaches I can hear the bag is not his belongings but cans, hundreds of smashed cans. I approach him as he approaches me, cigar bouncing in his lips. "What you up to?" I ask.

"Just trying to trade someone for these cans, so I can get something to eat."

"I'll buy you something to eat."

"Awesome, how about some chips and a beer? Want the cans?"

"That's okay, how about we go to Taco Bell or Subway?" I was hoping to have more of a conversation with him.

By now his friends are caught up and clearly curious about why I was talking to Harlin. "Who is your friend?" they ask.

"He's getting me something to eat."

"I'm happy to get you all something. Do you want to go to Taco Bell?"

Harlin quickly chimes in, "No, just a beer and chips at the gas station would work for me?"

By the look on the other two faces, I can tell they are more interested in some real food. I know Taco Bell may not qualify, but it beats the gas station. Harlin is more interested in a snack. So, I get Harlin a few items at the gas station and I then head to Taco Bell with the young couple, Tony and Stacy.

They too had a large bag of cans and I had to ask, "So why were you running to the smoke shop with the cans?"

Bag of cans they collected as it sat outside Taco Bell while we ate.

"They pay 5 cents a can but turns out you have to get there before 5 o'clock, so we will just come back tomorrow."

"How much will you get for all that?"

"I'd say we have 300-400 cans, so $15-$20 bucks."

We order, and as we wait, I begin to get to know Tony and Stacy. They've been on the streets or couch surfing at friends for the past 8 months after being kicked out of Stacy's mothers home in San Francisco. "Right now we have a friend that lets us keep our stuff at their place and stay from time to time. That is really nice because when we have a cart our stuff gets stolen all the time."

"Is this your first time on the streets?"

"No we were homeless before when Tony's Mom kicked us out." I turn to Tony, "You see your mother any more?"

The mood quickly changes, Tony didn't get mad or unwilling to share but extremely contrite. He began to share very openly some things that clearly brought him intense pain.

"My mother is in Arizona, but I don't know where. I haven't seen her in 9 months. I wish very much I knew where she was."

He continues to explain that he was trained as a chef and had worked in some very high end restaurants, earning $15-$18 dollars an hour. During that time, about 7 years ago, he got into drugs with the girlfriend he was dating at the time. Stealing became a way to feed the addiction and he wrote bad checks, stole identities and credit cards. In time, he was caught and spent 9 months in jail, did community service, went through a rehab program and spend 4 years on probation. "Given what I did, they were very lenient on me. It could have been much worse." It was during this time that he met Stacy, got his old certificates current and landed a job at "The Rose Garden" in Portland, Oregon. By the way he said it, you could tell he thought I would know about his restaurant. He was planning to move and come back later for Stacy but they found out she was pregnant and decided to ask for an extra week before he started to get things in order and bring her along. They agreed and he prepared to move. The day before he left they called him and told him that they would not be giving him the job, due to his background check and the past issues it turned up. "No real restaurants will hire me."

That was a couple years ago and since them they had a baby boy. He's now 1 and they have not seen him in 9 months because when Tony's mother left to Arizona she took the baby with her. I now understood why admitting he didn't know where his mother was brought so much pain.

He cheered up a little as he said, "but in three months it will have been 7 years since my conviction and my record will be clean. I can't wait to get a job."

"Have you been able to stay off drugs?"

He and Stacy said they had and I believed them. However being on the streets, drugs are never far away. "Heroine is a real issue in Sacramento. We had a friend overdose last week."

"So no one will take you with your background?"

"I could probably get a job at a place like this, but it's hard to take a job for $8 an hour when you were a chef in a nice place that made $18. I know that's a bad attitude to have, but it's hard."

They shared a few more stories about her siblings, she has a sister at Sacramento State and a brother who is in high school back in San Francisco. Shortly after, we finished our meals and I headed out.

I thought of a story I had read online  a story about a homeless man who turned down a job because he made more panhandling, and the car dealership used the opportunity to shame the homeless man.  I realize that Tony's story was very different, he was not panhandling but like the man in the story he had a hard time taking a job. Many of us are quick to assume such men don't want to work, but in Tony's case he had just worked an 8-10 hour day in 108 degree weather to get a $15-$20 pay check. Clearly he was willing to work.

But something keeps him from a job. What he described was pride. Being too proud to work a lowly job for lowly wages. But again I am not sure one would consider collecting cans much above fast food worker. I sense it may have more to do with that call he got from Portland. After he had paid his debt to society, done community service, probation, went through rehab, re-earned his certificates, applied for a job and got an offer, he got a call that said, "Oh wait, you are not good enough, we don't want you, we don't need your kind here.

I recently tried to take my wife to a restaurant, one that I'd been to many times before. I called ahead and they didn't answer, so I went, assuming I could get in. Once there, they said, they no longer took reservations without a tee time (it's connected to a golf course). It might sound silly, but even that felt awful, and it had nothing to do with me personally. It felt like they were saying, "you are not good enough for our restaurant." I hated that feeling and would avoid any place that I thought might bring a similar experience.

He said Taco Bell might hire him, I think, at least partially, he's scared to find out it that's true. He's happier believing they, lowly Taco Bell, would accept him, rather than apply and risk finding out that they wouldn't.

I thought of a man in my last ward, Lynn Goodfellow, who runs a business on the edge of Boulder City. He often employs men who may not be able to find employment because of their background. I thought of the homeless Bishop who told me he had to know which employers would be willing to consider those he works with. Such employers are hero's of mine. It made me think, in what ways do we send the message, "we want you to be a part of us" or  conversely "we don't want your kind?"

I am not sure why many able bodied, homeless men do not work. Perhaps sometimes it is that they are lazy, but I think a lot of the time it's far more than that. I am not condoning able bodied men choosing not to work. Tony knew and was correct that this is a "bad attitude", but maybe we can do things to make it less hard. Perhaps after we spend thousands of dollars "rehabilitating" an individual with court, lawyers, jail, rehab and all the work and money it entails, we can offer them less rejection and more encouragement, less shame and more praise, less disdain and more love.