Friday, April 25, 2008

flags of our brothers

I was talking to a guy today, a vet in a wheelchair who has no place to live. He sells those tiny little flags and makes a little money, his wheelchair was laden with the flags and his belongings and I noticed one of his legs was a prosthetic although I'm pretty sure he still couldn't walk. He had all these bags tied to his chair which nearly doubled it's girth, some of the bags were taped and swollen and to be honest it was kind of a mess. I couldn't help but wonder what folks think when they come across him on the street, and if they knew how much it would mean to him if they bought one of his flags, how hard he tries to sell them and how little he actually makes. He told me business has been pretty slow lately and he's not sure why. I thought that if folks knew how hard he's trying then maybe they'd buy one, or if they saw where he had to sleep at night maybe they'd buy two.

But I don't know if folks can tell those things when they see him on the street, his flags and his leg and his chair and his stuff, all of it together in human form, maybe the eyes block the heart, the mind plays it's games and we turn away because perhaps we don't feel all that patriotic or worse because we just don't know what else to do.

(the picture is from the net and not of the gentleman of whom i speak)

26 comments:

Adam said...

...I'm glad you see. I'm glad you don't shy away. That you are not afraid to see truth. Your words are inspiring. A challenge to live fully. Fully enjoying life's beauty, only by also mourning it's suffering.

Thank you for this post,

Adam

Family Adventure said...

...but that is why it is so important for you to blog about it, Jen. Because you do see, and through your eyes, we see, too. Next time I meet such a gentleman, you can be sure I will stop and buy a flag. Or ten.

Thank you,

Heidi

cce said...

People wear protective eye cover, preferring not to see the things that make them uncomfortable. And I'd hazard a guess that most people make a little calculation in their heads and think, "My two bucks is not going to help this guy," and comfortably move on. But if we all gave two dollars, well, that'd make all the difference, wouldn't it?

Blog Antagonist said...

Vets...and entire generation of people that this country has failed. It's shameful.

Annie said...

I've written about this on my own blog - for me I rarely engage with a figure like this - and I can NEVER walk away comfortably, the discomfort stays with me for a long time.

For me, it's fear and yes I'm ashamed of it.

I am trying to do better - not there yet though - and my contributions still tend to be towards those organizations that can help people like him, rather than to him directly.

I will continue to try harder.

Beck said...

I'm glad you wrote this even though it made me cry.
Keep up the good work, Jen.

Magpie said...

Can I vote for you?

Hetha said...

Well reading your blog has certainly changed my perspective, and I'll bet countless others as well. I've been seeing a homeless man every Monday morning at a highway off ramp on my way to speech. Each week I've rolled my window down and asked him how he was doing and have reached into my purse to give him a $10 bill. He always says "God Bless You! I'm going to get me something to eat!" - which is exactly what I hope he does with it. Before I "met" you, I don't think I would have spoken to him OR given him the money. So thank you.

Julie Pippert said...

It's disgraceful.

But it's beautiful that you open eyes and minds to look at this, and in a different way than maybe previously.

thailandchani said...

I would be happy to give him money but wouldn't buy the flags.

The dissident just ain't dead yet... and this whole thing enrages me.

Defiantmuse said...

god you are so full of shit on this one.

ha. :)

I agree w/ Chani.

and you know what else? I love that you do this every day and you get worn out and exhausted but you don't get bitter about it. Or jaded. And your heart remains open. That takes a lot. That *says* a lot. About you.

crazymumma said...

War continues to give and give and give.

KC said...

I see them everyday, babe. Every day.

Deb said...

What crazymumma said, war, the gift that keeps on giving.

lildb said...

that you go across the line every day, the line that keeps the bulk of us from seeing these people as just that, *people*, rather than a grouping of items and a sign and a desperate plea for something we already don't have all that much of, -- well, Jen, it makes me cry every damn time I read your indescribably admirable courage in these moments, and how much I envy your strength and your beauty, and how glad I am to know you.

thanks for doing what I am generally incapable of. thanks for me, thanks for them, thanks for my brother, thanks for all of us.

xo Deb

Amy Y said...

My boys would totally dig one of those flags!
I haven't seen homeless folks in Denver that sell goods but if I ever do, I'll make sure I buy two :)

Chicky Chicky Baby said...

You always open my eyes a little wider, friend. I'll pay more attention to men like him next time.

Kyla said...

In those moments you are there with me, squeezing my hand and saying, "Look there. You can help." And because of that I usually do, even if all I can spare at the time is a smile and a nod.

painted maypole said...

thank you for helping to open our eyes and our hearts to this man, and so many of his brothers

Jennifer said...

I do see. And it hurts my heart. But I don't know what to do, so I often don't do anything. Which also hurts my heart. Except, now I do know what to do. Now, I'll buy a flag.

Thank you.

flutter said...

shit.

calvets can't help? ugh.

Jenn said...

if only buying his flags were the solution.

if only.

i'd buy him out of all of them, over and over.

Pendullum said...

I think it is shame...
Shame for the fact that a person who gave and is now wounded by the sacrifice, now lives selling flags...
Shame... the walking, wheeling wounded...
And by not seeing them, not connecting, there is no responsibility as they do not exist....

hele said...

I think they don't want to see. Because then they will have to look around.

Much love my far seeing sister*

bgirl said...

the eyes block the heart...wow if that isn't the sad truth.

mamatulip said...

Wow. Jen, this just...hits. Hard.