Pat opens up, “Learn as much as you can on everything. Don’t just limit yourself to one aspect. Your brain is always learning. It’s a processor. You might fail a couple of times, but it doesn’t hurt you to keep trying until you master it.”
Homeless for three years, Pat is one of the many who have been hit hard by life circumstance. A man of honor and intellect, he works past his trust issues as he soberly speaks with us regarding the hand that has been dealt him.
“After three years on the streets I just established a place to live. It’s a 10’x10’ shed in a friend’s backyard. I worked out a trade in doing the gardening and house caretaking. I’ve got some of my stuff back and I’m getting back on my feet. But it’s hard. You have to come out here all the time to find cans to make money for food. It does not leave you much time on the computer to look for a job. And if you do, you send a resume. And how many resumes have already gone there… 1,000, 5,000?”
Right now Pat does have a seasonal job, sharpening ice skates at an outdoor skating rink. Yet, it is only for a few months of the year. The money does carry him a bit, but he is looking for a re-hire in the trucking industry. Now, the skeptical might say that Pat is living off the system. Perhaps some might even judge his character by assuming that he does not even desire employment… I assure you, that is not the case. Pat explains:
“I was brought up with ethics. I was brought up with principles. I was brought up with standards. I was brought up with honor. I did not have a choice. I mean, when I was born I was already in the military. My father was a sergeant and taught me the meaning of work.
“Some people look at people and say, ‘What a looser. He’s picking trash to get food, and he is probably this or that,’ but I have never collected welfare. Never in my life. I’ve never gone that far to get that much help from the government, or the State, for that matter. I mean… I could at any time. But I choose to make my own way.
“…Anybody could be in my shoes.” Pat compassionately proposes. “I had two houses at one time. I had two trucks, a motorcycle and a boat… I had a lot of shit. But then my life started collapsing.”
Pat calls himself a survivor. A well-earned title that can be summed up with one undeniable fact–Pat is on his own. “My father died in 69. I was 10. It happens”
“Mom became a full-time drunk in 70s. I took care of the kids. I had a younger brother (6 years) and a younger sister (1 ½ years).”
“Are your brother and sister OK?” I ask.
“I already buried them… they’re all dead,” he matter-of-factly replies. “I’m the sole survivor of my family. Mom, dad, grandfather, grandmother, uncles, aunts, brother, sister, my lover, my kids… it just goes on and on.”
We shift gears to the future.
“You don’t talk to people anymore. They are too busy texting,” Pat begins.
“Electronics are supposed to help us, but I think they are doing more trouble than we accept. People go to Google too fast. When I was a kid we went to the library and looked things up. What happens if they shut down the Internet?
“Every generation is getting lazier. I remember sitting with my grandfather. Sitting around the campfire telling stories. Now they walk down the street, too busy texting. Or they have their iPads or have their plugged ears with their screaming music. What happened to, ‘Hey, how you doing?’
“I don’t get the new generation. I sit back and say, ‘Are you kidding me! Is this what we have to look forward to? Is this our future?’
“And what if something catastrophic happen–people today can’t build a shelter, can’t farm and can’t even start a fire without matches? People who have gone through survival training, served as a Marine, like myself, and my father, might be OK… but what about everyone else?”
Pat talks of a compelling resolve. Although the premise is dark, he suggests that the outcome may fall toward the positive. “We need a war.” He directs, “We need population adjustment. We have an immigration problem. I’m an American, but I’m an immigrant myself. My parents came over on a boat. But we went through the system. We took the tests. We got our citizenship. We didn’t get all this free shit. Now it takes about 13 years to get citizenship. Hell, they’ll be grandfathers by then. The government has to figure a better way.”
War? A very extreme proposition–one that is presented by a man who has served his country (a full-term as a Marine); an idea that no-one of just mind wants to entertain. But Pat has lived a tough life and has experienced the hurting effects of loss of family, livelihood and, I’m sure, some of his dignity. Yet in speaking with him, I can only speak of a man of honor and conviction. A man willing to do what is just in his mind and a man brave enough to stand behind his word. He tells you what he feels and you know where you stand. And that itself is to be admired.
“Do you drink?” I inquire, (an assumption that far too many make when meeting the homeless).
“Only three times a year,” Pat replies. “I’ll drink a fifth when I celebrate my birthday, on the Fourth of July and for New Year’s.
“August is my birthday and I’ll get shit faced. I’ll say, ‘Happy Birthday to me. There ain’t going to be no party… no bells and whistles… no cake. No one gives a shit. No one matters.
“You know who you matter to.” I point to the sky.
“When I go to heaven,” Pat states, “I’m going to Hell, because I want to know why he took everything away from me… and he better have a damn good reason or I’m going to break his nose. And I know down there, He doesn’t want me… I don’t know. I could go either way.”
I assure Pat that he is not evil. I know this for certain. The last two years of approaching strangers has put me in the path of 1,000s of people. I’ve met some of the most amazing individuals, and frighteningly, a few that I felt may have been truly evil, and there is nothing in Pat’s continence that exudes anything close to the coldness I’ve encountered from several very scary people I’ve come across. All I see is a man doing his best to deal with the stress of his situation.
We talk of the fact that anybody is able to commit bad acts. Even the best of people, if pushed to their limits, are capable of terrible things. But that is different from having pure evil in their hearts. We talk about the balance of true justice and restitution. How punishment has to fit the crime.
Pat is no fan of the current system. “True justice is not like the court system as it is now and the government loopholes. Before they pass anything now they have to figure out how they are going to make money.
“My motto… Burn the government down and start again,” he jests as we jump to a discussion of the foreclosure crash. “That was a fire sale,” Pat summarizes.
In the end we conclude that everyone on earth has a purpose, and for those who have since left this planet, perhaps they have left us for a higher call as well.
I call Pat a new friend. He prefers to be called an associate. In this we agree on middle ground. We are all human beings living side by side.
Pat– Thank you for your wisdom. Your words do matter my friend.