SideWalk Ghosts / Interview 236: “The Perfect Storm”

Two days ago we met veteran of the streets, Pappy. What I did not let you in on was the fact that we were not alone. With us was John, not homeless, but on the fringe of living on the streets.

Today, I catch up with John and have the privilege to tell a little of his story.

“My fall is temporary and it’s very humbling,” John starts off.

“This is not me. I’m a former professional, even a future professional. I didn’t ask for this.”

John’s story is a story that many of us, I’m sure, can relate to. It all began in 2008, the fist wave of this difficult recession we are still healing from. At that time he was working data entry at Blue Cross.

“I was beginning to have terrible back pain,” John reflects. And that, added to the demands of a less than compassionate boss, led to an immense stress load that deepened his physical pain.

“I got medical aid and it was diagnosed that I had three bulged disks, all lower back, and all aggravated by prolonged sitting.”

Luckily for John, at the peak of his physical therapy treatments he was transferred to a new division where his new bosses were understanding of his condition.

“They were great — set me up with an ergonomic workstation and for a few years managing my pain and work stress was tolerable”

But in perfect recession form, the company reorganized and John found himself under the management of his previous, uncaring supervisor.

“She wrote me up several time for various incidents, and with the promise of a positive review in a few months, I worked even harder to correct the write ups. The three months passed and upon excelling in my numbers, I received zero acknowledgment.

“I looked around the department and everyone was unhappy, literally working with their shoulders slumped,” John leans his forehead on his hands to illustrate the general posture of the department.

“My pain was coming back, but esteem was being destroyed and enough was enough. I had to prioritize my mental and physical health. I gave my notice.”

John’s story is a step into a perfect storm.

First Gust: Pain and stress leading to resignation of employment.

Thunder: Sister who he shared residence with runs up unrecoverable debt load.

Lightening Strike: Father who was helping financially and emotionally, dies suddenly.

The Flood: Bills become overwhelming — house is repossessed.

The Landslide: John finds himself and dependent sister destitute and on the edge of homelessness.

At the time of this writing the streets are only inches away from John and his sister. They are literally squatting in the home that they had spent years paying a faithful mortgage.

“We’ll stay as long as we can, until they throw us out. The realtor has been pretty cool, but he cannot hold off the bank forever. I never in my wildest dreams thought I’d ever be in this situation. It’s very humbling.”

I ask John for his council to us, “’It may sound obvious to say, ‘I believe in God’”

He takes a short pause to think in growing his advice, and then gives us this, “You need to look into yourself and learn to draw on the power within you to do what you need to do… but you have to want to do it. It is almost like a calling.”

We sit and talk of options, some John has attempted, some are new to his ears. But in all John shines a willingness to do whatever is takes to avoid what he refers to as the “H” word.

John talks of society, “I will never look at people the same, and I’ve learned a lot hanging out with Pappy. He has looked out for me and I will always appreciate him for that. I can only look at this chapter of my life with open eyes and have grown to appreciate charity, as hard as it is to accept.”

I ask my final question, “What do you see for the future of the planet and the people on it?”

John Answers, “We’ve survived as a planet. We’ve gone through a lot. I don’t think it is as dire as we think it is. I think if we are good enough to each other that we can survive. In the end we will be OK.”

I share the seventeen dollars I have in my pocket, as I wish John all the luck he deserves.

John, I’ll do what I can to watch your back, my friend.