Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Is America Great?

At Dinner with Alanna, Josh and Brandon

Life had never been easy for young Alanna, she never knew her Father, never even knew anything about him until she was an adult and then figured out very quickly she was glad that the violent alcoholic had not ever been in her life. Her Mother did her best that a single Mom could do trying to raise a family by herself. When little Alanna came home and said that her friend Brandon, who was only 5 years old, had been abandoned by his family, her Mother decided to adopt him and add one more mouth to feed. 

But despite loving her, her Mother was far from perfect, and when her older brother starting bringing drugs home, Mother, rather then stopping it, joined in. Due to the Meth addiction of her Mother young Alana found herself on the streets for the first time at age 16. Her Mother would go on and off drugs for the next few years. Brandon would join the Navy and spend two years on a submarine before being discharged and coming back to Indiana. 

Alanna went on to fall in love with a boy named Josh. Josh had special needs but kept a job at Indiana Beach being a stunt double for their shows. When Alanna was able to help her Mother sober up for the first time in a long time things looked like they were going pretty good. Her Mother was sober, she wasn't on the streets, Brandon was home and Josh's job brought in a few bucks so they had some money.

But things changed fast, her older Brother was still caught up in the drug scene and one night, a deal went the worst way a deal can go and Alanna's Mother was murdered by a local drug dealer. A short time later, Indiana Beach shut it's doors and the trio of Alanna, fiance Josh and adopted brother Brandon, banded together on the streets. 

The only shelter that they were near in Indiana was a Men's shelter, that meant that if the nights were freezing Alanna had no place to go. "No one will give you a job in Indiana if you are homeless." Alanna states as she recalls there time back home. "Police do nothing but harass you, and if it's freezing, well, too bad."

Josh's Father told them that he planned to move to a small town outside of Denver in May, and he was getting a large piece of property, and they were welcome to 2 acres if they wanted. It was more than anything they had in Indiana so they somehow got a vehicle they hoped would get them to Denver and hit the rode. They were wrong, the vehicle never made it, but with rides and help they did. 

Now they just have to wait until May, but things have been very different for them in Denver. "There is a clinic that sees us for free and helps get me my asthma medication. There is a local church that helps us with food. The police stop to make sure we are okay, and if it's below freezing they help us get to somewhere with shelter so we don't freeze. And best of all there is a daily work place that will help get us temporary work," Alanna says. 

Brandon pipes up. "I have had two places offer me a job once I get my ID which should come in the mail in a few days."

I, knowing that addresses can be hard for homeless ask, "Where are they sending your ID's?"

"A local charity gave me a box to use as an address."

"They are way more helpful here. When we told the guy that Josh had special needs, rather than look at us like, too bad, he said, 'no problem' and helped him fill out the application right then and there. It was totally different experience," Alanna adds.

This experience, oddly enough, reminded me of two statues.

The Colossus at Rhodes was a statue of the Greek God Helios. At over 100 feet it was the largest statue of the Ancient world. It was erected to show Rhodes power after they had a victory over Cypress. 
The Colossus of Rhodes: Ancient Greek Mega Statue

In 1883 the United States was in the middle of a Depression. They too hoped to erect a large statue. They needed to raise funds to build a platform on which to place a statue of a beautiful women that had been given to them by the French in honor of their friendship. A young poet, Emma Lazarus wrote a sonnet that was to be auctioned off to raise funds for the pedestal.  

In the end, the statue was to be similar in size to the Colossus at Rhodes, and it would undoubtedly be compared to it. But would the comparison be fare. Lazarus knew that unlike the Colossus at Rhodes, which was erected to show power over others, this statue was a symbol of strength through friendship, love and charity.

To make this clear she penned the immortal words, a portion of which were placed and still sit at the base of that statue today:

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;

Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "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-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

In a depression, when we were struggling to take care of ourselves she knew where Americas power truly would come from. Not from showing how great we are or only accepting the worlds best and brightest it would be from showing that we were open and prepared to receive the lowest of low. Those who needed help. She was not blind that they would come with baggage, struggles and needs. But She knew that we had something to offer, something that would make them and us better.

A portion of those words still sits at the base of the Statue she helped raise the funds to erect, the Statue of Liberty.

I do not know all the reasons it didn't work out in Indiana for this group who has had so much of worlds adversities laid at their feet. But when I hear about their experience in Denver, it reminds me that what makes our country great is not just men and women who have pulled themselves up from poverty, but men and women who have pulled, loved and helped others along as well.

If you enjoyed this please enjoy another one of my homeless articles: Getting Behind the Wheel

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