So I went out after the dinner at the Aquarium here in Atlanta to try to get a good shot at the Ebenezer Baptist Church. This is the church where Martin Luther King was preacher. It is a place that has a strong historical significance for our country and culture. Last time I was here, there was not much to get pics of since it was raining and overcast and the church was closed. This time, it was dark and the church was closed. It is going through a restoration to make it look like it did when MLK was preaching here.
While I was trying to shoot the sign, I met Wilafred Jackson. Wilafred is one of Atlanta's homeless. She was very nice and she asked if I wanted to take her picture? I did, but I was really low on batteries (so no flash) and she was not the kind to stand still (really hard if you have no flash). It was about midnight and I had ridden the 2 miles on my fold up Dahon to come here and shoot. Wilafred has been here collecting cans and she sees a man just out taking pictures. So we chatted for a little bit.
I had a hard time understanding her, she had that heavy southern accent that was somehow made stronger with her health issues. She really was a sweet woman. I emptied my pockets for her, I think I only had about $10 on me. but she was excited about it and rushed off for pie and coffee. Leaving me with my pictures. I would have liked to hear more of her life or of her Atlanta, but she was off.
As she went, I was very cognizant of the differences in our worlds. Living in Riverside and a gated community, I know that this is a part of the world and our society that my daughters have not had any interaction with. I wonder if I do them great harm with how much I enjoy to spoil them. They are sweet and I think that they would struggle with the emotions of this. The hardened heart that we get as we become adults seems to get softened a little with an interaction like this. We are wound up in our lives, trying to make some progress and that seems to insulate us from the humility of these situations. But the sensativity of my kids would not be easyily comforted as the realization of Wilafred and her situation came to them. They would want to save her and bring her home.
I am worried that we are upside down with the big loss of equity in our neighborhood and many others in our area. We have seen a number of houses just become vacant. Bank owned and up for sale, they have dropped the value of the homes in our area. Where I am not happy about the economy, I am somewhat confident that the equity crunch will turn around for us at least through time and monthly payments. If not a turn around, we will be fine through budgeting and working hard to pay down the debt. In fact, if our kids see us buckle up and work to pay off our debts, it might be a good place to start with talking about the way the world works. The out comes for some folks are harsher then for others. The 'whys' and 'hows' are the hard part, the happenings are the observable part.
The really hard part is going to be explaining to my daughters that choice plays a role here too. Many times the solutions offered for these situations is more programs with more money. I do not know Wilafred's exact details or how she came to be here where she was. But I do know some who choose to live life in a way that homelessness is the only possible result. I know that for many, they lack the ability to make choices that will keep them out of situations like these.
Like many, I want to feel good when I give some money to folks who need it. It is distant and safe. But what we need is to feel like my kids would, a desire to make it all better. Desire does not build lives, or even sooth the pains that many who are homeless suffer. It can't. What is more, there is probably not much more that we can many times do. So I took her picture, and enjoyed a few moments with her, I hope that it was an ok encounter for her too. And my heart was softened and my focus returned to the important things that we do in this life. We love, we teach, we learn, we hope, we suffer, we live. It is amazing how quick things fall of the list.
The really hard part is going to be explaining to my daughters that choice plays a role here too. Many times the solutions offered for these situations is more programs with more money. I do not know Wilafred's exact details or how she came to be here where she was. But I do know some who choose to live life in a way that homelessness is the only possible result.
I know many who have no choice. The frequency of Mental and Emotional Illness is highest in the bottom sociodemographics of most societies. It is not that if you are poor you will have a greater chance of these disorders, rather that if you have these disorders you have a greater chance of poverty. Downward Drift.
Yet Wilafred was not weeping or wailing. She demanded nothing of me. If fact she was more interested in how I was enjoying Atlanta. I guess that heavy So Cal accent tipped her off that I was not from around there. That and the bike with a tourist camera. But in the end, I went home after the meetings, but Wilafred had pie and coffee, hot coffee. I hope she is well.
Here are a few more from the visit.
Thanks for looking.