Friday, August 29, 2008

Homeless and hungry, just passing through....

Mother used to say that if we paid attention, looked around us, we would find reminders of those little things that keep the world turning. Since she was poor, raising four children on tiny wages and a shoestring budget, we knew Mom didn't mean for us to look around for mansions, expensive cars, diamonds and gold, or fancy clothes. She meant to keep our eyes peeled for regular people doing the right thing, showing compassion, sacrificing for the betterment of others without whining about it. She meant for us to observe the loyalty and rituals of wildlife and domestic animals, the reliable resurgence of spring, or how winter snows cleansed the air and covered Earth's bare places.

Amidst the frivolity and excesses of political conventions -- financial excesses that literally turn my stomach -- I hoped for a sign that the common world still turned in ways I could accept and appreciate. That sign came this past Wednesday in the guise of a homeless man heading east on Kansas Highway 36 to visit his mother. We passed him on the road while he pedaled a three-wheel bicycle loaded down with two dogs and everything he owned. He grinned happily and tossed a jaunty wave as we passed in reply to my husband's honk. Dressed in an Army fatigue jacket and tattered jeans, he had that weathered look of a man who spends long hours in the sun. On the back of his bicycle was a sign: "Homeless. Hungry. Will work for food for me and my dogs."

I knew without asking what my husband would want to do. We were a mile out of town, so I suggested we turn around and get a few staples at the local grocery store. Hubby was more than happy to do so. Half an hour later we found him stopped along the highway giving his dogs a drink of water and some bites of plain bread. We presented high energy drinks, bananas, crackers and peanut butter to tide him over for a day or two, a bag of dog food, and a couple deli sandwiches. He grinned and shook hands with my husband, said he had a long way to pedal himself and his dogs before reaching his destination in the heart of Illinois. But he wasn't complaining. He was happy to have transportation.

As we proceeded to our own destination, we wondered about his history. What put him in such circumstances? Would he reach his destination in Illinois? Will he take side roads or try to reach his mother by pedaling himself and his dogs along a busy interstate? Will anyone give him work? Food for him and his dogs? Shelter from the weather? Will anyone see in him what we did, a wide happy smile free of self-pity and a man willing to ride a loaded down three wheel bike hundreds of miles no matter what befell him along the way?

On our return trip home several hours later, we passed him again, more than 10 miles east of our first encounter. He was parked under shade trees, sitting cross legged in the dirt, eating a sandwich and petting his dogs as they ate their dog food. We honked, he grinned and waved as we passed. And we returned home, more thankful than ever for the reliable vehicle we drive and our comfortable home.

That night as we watched still more coverage of politicians, hubby said, "Wish I had a thousand dollars out of the millions these people (politicians) are spending on such foolishness. Just think what that man and his dogs could do with a thousand bucks."

My mother's message still rings clear after decades. Meeting that homeless man with dry bread in his pockets inspired us and reminded us that this world turns for everyone, not just the very wealthy and fiscally irresponsible politicians. We don't see everything of importance on TV. That homeless guy and his canine companions will stay in our minds long after the election has passed. We'll worry about him and pray for him and wonder if he made it safely to Illinois.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A good day for this writer......

I rarely get invited to do a book signing or personal appearance anymore. That's mostly my fault because I don't get out and circulate or talk about my books. Plus, it's been awhile since my last book was released so people tend to forget. Out of sight, out of mind. Last month a surprise arrived in my inbox. A group of people who meet monthly for lunch at Clay County Hospital in Clay Center KS asked if I would be a featured speaker for their meeting in August. I was delighted, of course, and wondered how anyone in Clay Center knew about my books. I don't know anyone in Clay Center, but several group members had been reading and passing around two of my books.

Today was a perfect late summer day here in prairie land. We've had abundant rain this summer so the drive south to Clay Center presented bright green pastures and corn fields and healthy milo fields with fat brown milo heads in contrast against a clear blue sky. Sleek brown and black cattle grazed contentedly in fields along the roads. That "easy, peaceful feeling" extolled in a song came over me. Under ideal conditions, the rolling prairies of Kansas are beautiful.

Clay Center is a thriving town situated on Kansas Highway 15. We found the hospital with no problem and were most impressed. The small rural hospital has a wellness center complete with heated indoor pool, and the meeting room above it on the second floor has every modern pleasantry you could want. The staff was cheerful, friendly, and helpful. I had a good feeling about the day from the minute I walked through the door.

40 to 45 people attended the meeting. Most were senior citizens but several younger people attended. A tasty lunch was served and then came the time for my presentation. My talk was extemporaneous, not a prepared speech. I knew the attendees were most interested in
My Name is Esther Clara because the staff had told me that ahead of time. The group laughed at my stories in all the right places, and asked questions afterward. And numerous people wanted to buy copies of my books, although selling books makes me feel more than a little uncomfortable.

This day was nirvana for an unknown writer. Every writer should appear before an appreciative, attentive group like the one I met today. All in all, it was a very good day.

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I enjoy good writing by writers and poets who are not famous. My mother said I was born a hundred years too late. The older I get, the more I realize how right she was.

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