I Can’t Walk with Him

Guest columnist Paul Curran shows how sharp his skills of observation and interpretation are for us all to soak in today. Take it away for your Sunday spotlight, my Canadian friend.

Your Barrista -- Paul Curran

Your Barrista — Paul Curran

Prejudice and Hate have no place here
If We Were Having Coffee

Welcome to the weekly coffee and tea garden. My name is Paul, I’ll be your barista today and I’m happy to be here at Mark Bialczak’s Little Bitty in Syracuse, New York. Please come in and go through to the living room. Mark, his wife Karen and their pooch Ellie B, have prepared a nice, warm, comfy place for us so I can tend to your needs for a cuppa, and sweets. The weather this morning is cloudy with showers and a high just over 50º F. As usual, I’d be pleased to bring a pot of whatever beverage you prefer. We have a wide range of teas and coffees to satisfy our worldwide readership and adult beverages for those who wish something stronger to warm up. We can relax with a cuppa while we discuss the affairs of the week both personal and/or worldwide. Ellie likes to be patted, so please indulge her when she greets you. How has your week been? Have a piece of cake (or any of the sweets on the next table) – electronic sweets are all calorie-free!

Yum! Yum!

So, Friday I was standing on the front porch waiting for my ride to dialysis, when a bevy of four men – two white and two black — approached and greeted me. I stand pretty tall and wide so I felt safe enough. One black guy and one hardened-looking older white guy entered the building door next to mine. The older white guy came back out in a few seconds and demanded that the white guy outside trade backpacks with him. After some grumbling the exchange was made and as the backpack went by, I saw it was so full of liquor that it couldn’t be zipped closed.

The two left outside sat on the steps – not permitted in our building – and the white dude identified himself as Johnny. He was about 45, and I had spoken to him before. He is very outgoing and always drunk – as he was Friday. He began telling me how he had quit his job roofing because he was scared of heights now – something that wasn’t so when he was younger. He began to talk about his Mom, who he said was 63 and a drug addict – crack being her choice of poison. He said he worried about her and had once broken down her door when she wouldn’t answer it and he knew she was in there. Then he said that his Dad had died two years ago today at 59 – and with raised voice – how sad it was that his Dad worked hard all his life and died before he could retire. How unfair was that?! At this point he found it important to give me a hug – which I accepted. Johnny was grubby as most are but passable.

Meanwhile the black guy sitting there said nothing; he just sat and stared at the ground. He was rail-thin, although dressed clean and neat in army surplus clothes. His hair was well-trimmed and his teeth white – his fingernails clean and well-kept. He looked absolutely beaten and seemed he could barely get the energy to walk. I suspect he may have had AIDS but there was no physical indication other than the thinness and lack of strength.

Food Bank

The two others emerged from the building with empty bags and said they were going to the food bank – which is about five blocks up the road. Johnny said he would join them later and continued with his life history. The thin black man started off with the others but behind them. It was only a few minutes before he staggered back and sat down again. When I asked if he was going to the food bank he whispered he was but remained sitting. After a few minutes Johnny wound down and saying “C’mon, let’s go” to the black man, started down the street. The black man didn’t move. I asked if he was joining Johnny, and he shook his head whispering in a voice that barely had the strength to exist “I can’t walk with him” and he pointed to add, “look.”

Sure enough, Johnny had stopped to have a loud conversation with another tenant about four buildings down who was standing on the second-floor balcony. They shouted back and forth, and in the end Johnny pulled down his pants and mooned the guy – and for good measure turned and mooned us, too. While Johnny was laughing his head off, the black guy just shook his head. I figured that Johnny’s antics were more than he wanted to endure, and that was the reason he wouldn’t walk with him. I would find out differently.

Would you like another cuppa? Perhaps a sweet? The black guy looked so sad, and he whispered that he was going inside now. And then he realized he had lost his key. He asked if I could open the outer door, and I explained that I lived next door (the two doors are side by side and share the same porch). It took a few minutes and some explaining and pointing for him to understand there were two separate entrances side by side. The concept seemed hard for him. He asked if I could stop anyone who was coming out of his door and get them to hold it for him – all this in a whisper that required numerous repetitions before I got it. He said he had to go to his crib and lie down. He sat back down as if he did not have the strength to stand. I told him he should go see the manager if he needed a key, and he agreed. I watched him stagger off toward the office and a few minutes later stagger back. He whispered that the manager wasn’t in and sat back down. About 10 minutes later another tenant came out of the door and we got him to hold it while the thin man, gripping the door frame, pulled himself inside.

Later that evening, after dialysis, I was home checking blogs when my friend Steve knocked on the door. He plopped down in my visitor’s chair and set two bags of groceries on the floor. He had also been over to the food bank and had picked up some groceries for me as well. Because of dialysis and my inability to walk very far I have a hard time getting to the food bank, so Steve, bless his heart, goes with a note from me and my ID and picks up food on my behalf. Steve told a story about standing in line at the food bank. Apparently Johnny showed up before the doors opened and got in line. He began to talk very loud about how immigrants were taking his food, directing his comments at the non-Caucasians in the line. The food bank personnel came out and told Johnny to stop the prejudiced talk. He continued to loudly proclaim that the immigrants did not have any right to his food and how Canadians were starving while those who didn’t belong took their food.

It wasn’t long before the police showed up and told Johnny that if he didn’t stop, he would be arrested for promoting hate statements in public. At this point Johnny told them he was hungry and had no food and he needed to get to the food bank. Then he proceeded to try to convince the cops that the immigrants had to go. Ha! Instead, it was Johnny who went – into the back of the cop car in handcuffs charged with hate, disturbing the peace, resisting arrest, public intoxication and numerous other tidbits.

It was at this point in Steve’s story that I suddenly realized why the thin, quiet black man had whispered “I can’t walk with him.”

That’s about all we have room for this week folks, so it’s time to settle in with another cuppa and pat Ellie B. Sweets anyone? Please join me in thanking Mark, Karen and Ellie B for their invitation to tea. We are all honored that you dropped by today to visit. I hope you’ve enjoyed yourself and the conversation and please look around at Mark’s other posts while you’re here. Have a great week.

Coffee Owls

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81 thoughts on “I Can’t Walk with Him

  1. This is such a difficult post to read but thanks for sharing it. In the States, Donald Trump has tapped into the anger fueling the Johnny in your story, and I have to worry at the virulent depths of that current.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Barb! Thanks so much for dropping by for a read. Is this really hard to read?. The Johnnys of the world don’t even know what they are saying. He was hanging out with a mixed race group and yet underneath there was this hatred he blamed everyone for his lack of success. Johnny took no responsibility for his own life everything was someone else’s fault. His mother for her drug habit, his father for dying young, immigrants for being a different culture, etc.

      Thanks so much for the visit Barb and for the comment.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Well…it is hard to read. What if some morning Johnny woke up to find that the person in line to become Prime Minister was telling him that he was right all along? That all that “antisocial behavior” talk is really just politically-correct-speak coverup because Mexicans ARE all drug dealing sociopaths, Moslems ARE all terrorists, and immigrants in general DO all just want to rape Canadian women and take Canadian jobs? And what if there are a WHOLE bunch more Johnny’s out there than anyone realized?

        That’s what is going on south of the US/Canadian border. And yes—it’s hard to read. And even harder to see in action.

        Liked by 3 people

  2. Hi Paul = nice flow to your post – it seemed long at first – and I almost came back- but it was a great read – and sorry about Johnny – hope his ride in the cop car did not lead to a lot of long term court stuff.
    the food back photo is a piece of photo journalism – and woof to Ellie B from me…. (and Hi Marky mark)

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Paul, Mark,Karen and Ellie B great to see you all. I have brought Ruby to meet Ellie B
    Can I have a black coffee please , thank you.
    It’s I same old story the world over. Sadly people always fear the new and the foreign. The problem is some immigrants will not adapt they insist on having their own way in everything. That’s not bad thing but here in the UK we give in too much . We end up penalised , you can wear a hijab or bourka but not a cross / crucifix to work and that’s just one example. If you go to a Muslim country you must comply to their laws and customs or be punished. I am not advocating the same extremism here but some give and take and respect for us and our customs would be good.
    I will not go on but there is a lot more I could say on this subject. I am not prejudice against anyone but we are a tiny Island we have peoples not only from the East but all over Europe wanting to come here…we are sinking.
    I am a moderate person but I fear for our children and their children , I fear for the world’s future .
    Maybe I could have a glass of red wine after that rant😉 xxx

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Willow! It’s wonderful to have you and Ruby drop by. One black coffee coming up with a glass of wine on the side. Would you like a sweet with that Willow? I understand what you are getting at however in this case, the non-Caucasians were doing exactly as all were doing, just lining up for food. And Johnny was railing against all nonwhites, many of which were likely citizens, some for generations,they just have a different skin color. He assumed nonwhite = immigrant and that is not true. One of our Canadian provinces tried to ban all religious symbols in public including najibs – but that did not work. It is a complex subject Willow and yet compassion and intelligence should be able to reign.

      Thanks again for the visit. Great to see you out and about. (You too Ruby!)

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes Paul it is a hard question to sort out but as you say colour means nothing. I just wish we could all live together in peace , help each other and share wealth around …I am just an old hippie. Peace Man!

        Liked by 3 people

  4. I feel as if I were sitting on the landing meeting these guys with you, Paul. Your powers are in full force today — watching, thinking and telling all about it. Thank you for an interesting Sunday read, my friend.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi Paul. I think Barb nailed it a bit with her comment. There is an undercurrent of anger and frustration that is surfacing in this election year. And it is something to fear. We have elected questionable leaders before in the U.S., but this time is different. Trump could win in an environment like this. I don’t believe that he honestly espouses the attitudes/prejudices that gets him attention, and propels his brand forward. But he taps into the ugly. And that scares me.

    As for your story, I wouldn’t walk with that man either. An interesting, provocative post. 💘

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks so much or dropping by Van. I agree, our politicians are appealing to our basest behaviors. There could be great danger there – reinforcing our worst and sidelining our best, Much as the square root of 4 can be either 2 or -2, so too a democracy (rule of the majority) can emphasize the positive or the negative. In theory the constitution stops a democracy from going negative but it can be overwhelmed. I remain with y fingers crossed.

      Thanks for the visit Van,please drop by again.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Indeed Susan. I wondered if anyone would see what I had seen “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him,” Colossians 2:6 The black man’s words struck me as being biblical when he said “I can’t walk with him.” It seemed to speak so clearly to me about the lack of compassion, the lack of acceptance, the lack of respect for his fellow man, etc. The unusual wording and the directness also suggested biblical. And his inference that as weak as he was,it would make him even weaker to walk with Johnny.

      Thank you so much for dropping by Susan I am pleased the post blessed you this morning.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Your Johnny could easily have been my eldest brother Bob. He has a miserable life, mostly through poor choices on his own part. But of course, it is the fault of the blacks and “the illegals” (as he calls them), and Muslims. Oh and democrats. He relies heavily on public assistance but votes constantly for the most conservative of candidates. It is so much easier to hate than to look inward.

    Love the owls.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Elyse! Thanks so much for dropping by. It is sad that your brother is amongst so many now who are this way. The liquor was purchased with an assistance check they had received on Friday.Then they hit the food bank. It is hard to watch. I’d not seen the thin blackman before, he must be a new tenant. Perhaps not for long I see the police are here this morning. I hope he is OK. We had a false fire alarm this morning as well. Last night there was banging and hollering all night, I’ll be so pleased if the Vancouver plan materializes.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I hope that Vancouver works out for you — I was just thinking of that yesterday and wondering.

        At least my brother doesn’t drink or do drugs. He’s got that going for him. But not a lot else.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Sad to say that there will always be people like Johnny, and there will also always be people like that young black man. There will always be resentment by hardworking people against those perceived as working the system. You’d think by now we would all have learned how to get along with each other, but it’s not to be.

    By the way, Cody is the same color as Ellie B, and I’m the same color as you and Mark, so I assume we’d be welcome over there at the Little Bitty? (Just yanking your chains, of course – I know that both you and Mark are always willing to accept people [and dogs] of any color.)

    PS: I worry about you in that neighborhood. Hopefully, the next place will be better.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hey CM, great to see you. I pouted last week when you commented on Mark’s post and not mine.Ha! Yeah, the different types and colors of people have always created divisions – and we are no better today than before. Still it has to be addressed regularly or it just gets worse.

      Yes, this is an interesting neighborhood. It is a mixture of students and fixed income residents in the same buildings. The buildings are 100 year old brick but they look great and have been renovated. The students have all moved out for the summer so the units fill with fixed income folks – and the neighborhood goes down hill. I am big and scary looking so they have all been respectful to me so far. Even the junkies frothing at the mouth will respect me. You’ve seen my hairy picture, at 6 foot 3 and about 250 pounds, I am just scary looking i I frown. I’m naturally very positive but aware My doors are always locked and windows are locked and barred when I’m not home. I don’t ever show anything of value – and I don’t wear any jewelry. Having trucked for years, I’m a pretty hard target – as the special forces teams call it. 😀

      Liked by 2 people

  8. I have known a few of those “Johnnys” myself . . . angry, blaming the world, taking no responsibility for their own actions, having no compassion or empathy for others. It’s very sad. I definitely do my best to distance myself from them. I learned a long time ago, we are all way more the same than we are different – DNA proves that. Some people will just never get it . . .
    Great post, Paul, & certainly keeping my fingers crossed for Vancouver!!!
    Hope you, Mark, Karen & Ellie B have a great week ahead!! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much for dropping by Sadie! When you think about Johnny and his reality, it is clear that nothing can be done – except to just use force to stop him – his way of thinking will not change now. I’m pleased that you enjoyed the post Sadie – it seemed a topic you would appreciate.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. That is a pretty heartbreaking reality of a day in your world, Paul. I do recognize it. That’s where I grew up, and Lord knows, the food bank has fed my family more than a few times. I really don’t know why some of us end up where we do regardless of our circumstances of beginning. I despise the ‘pull yourself up by your bootstraps’ orders because they are almost entire and complete bullshit in application to most people.
    There but the grace of God, and the greed of heartless commerce, go i…
    Hugs to you, Paul. I will keep my fingers crossed for your Vancouver dream.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks so much Robyn. It is easy to say that one just has to try and all will be fine. It is far from the truth and many do not understand this. But they will eventually. I suppose that is so for Johnny too – but that doesn’t affect the fact that he won’t change now. Thanks for the Hugs and HUGS back at ya!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Hey Art! Awesome to have you visit! Yeah,the bastards are everywhere. We have pretty strong harassment and hate laws to try and minimize their impact and our culture will quickly bring a response from bystanders if someone is being prejudice, but still they pop up mostly when drunk or if a private party becomes public. They get scooped up pretty fast but that does nothing but aggravate them. Generally speaking they have a family or environmental history of hatred and prejudice and often end up being assigned to anger management or such by a court.

      Thanks so much for the read and comment Art. I know your time is precious. Give my regards to Olivia.

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      • Yeah – America holds Freedom of Speech above all else and we don’t. I understand why historically but it can cause some issues. Here hate and harassment and bullying (amongst other disrespectful activities) are all held as over-ruling freedom of speech.

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      • Well you guys basically built your country on Freedom of Speech. At the time all were “immigrants” so no heed was taken of that. It was representation they were looking for and that required freedom of speech. In fact it was not possible to get representation or start a new country without freedom of speech. The issue is that now that the country is mature and stable, it has turned its attention inwards and freedom of speech becomes a detriment in certain specific cases – like prejudice or hate or bullying. The rules need to be amended to account for the development of the country.

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      • Well, we have ‘political correctness’, wherein we try to shame people into not being haters… which doesn’t work on most haters… but at least this will cut down immigration from Canada… because you people are coming here to steal all the jobs that Americans are too lazy, uneducated or not funny enough to do… so… I am going to build a wall… of ice… and make your obnoxiously rich and handsome head of state pay for…

        Liked by 1 person

      • Bwahaha! We’ll take that wall of ice and install rooms and restaurants and bars and administration built out of ice right in the wall and hire Hook to run it and make it a tourist destination – the Hotel of Ice. We actually have such things in Quebec in the winter so we have some experience. Excellent idea Art – as usual we’ll use American money to finance it and we’ll pay you back later – promise. Ha!

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    • It is sad Beth – our country does its best but still some fall through the cracks. A study was done on the social cost of the disenfranchised and it worked out to over $50,00 per year in health,food, etc. The cost for housed, fed people is less – about $20,000 per year. It is far cheaper to feed and house people than it is to pay for the health and social costs that are incurred for the hungry and poor. We are building subsidized housing as fast as possible but are far behind the demand. And as the economy gets tougher and more people fall in the cracks we fall further behind.

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  10. Paul, you have described a scenario that is slowly becoming a reality in a few of our major cities. It saddens me and I’m not sure what the solution is. Up until the late 70s / early 80s we we the most egalitarian nation on the planet, but we now have the growth rate of disparity between rich and poor in the OECD. It’s all done in the name of creating growth and wealth for the country, but from what I see, any growth is restricted to those who are the most wealthy, and the wealth seems to be going from those with the least to those with the most.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Indeed Barry. It seems to be a side effect of capitalism that more and more wealth is transferred to fewer and fewer of the wealthy while the poor get poorer. This was first commented by Socrates and there have been numerous high quality think tanks that have come to the same conclusion. Capitalism cannot be allowed to run unbalanced if the society wishes to maintain an equitable distribution of wealth. The statistics of wealth bear this out year after year as more and more wealth is held by fewer and fewer of the population. there are many “easy” solutions to this but none will be enacted because those who have the wealth also have the power and they like it the way it is. One such simple solution that also makes capitalism stronger and more efficient is mandated profit sharing. I once worked for a profit sharing company and as soon as they began to do this, every employee began to work for company profit and they surged ahead of the competition. It was amazing to see. And yet so few owners will risk their profits by trying this. If it were mandated that say 20% of profit had to be distributed (leaving lots for owners and entrepreneurs) that would put a big bite in the wealth transfer. As long as the level of profit left for owners exceeded the average stock market growth ( about 5% year over year on average) companies and individuals would still invest to grow capital. Anyway, that is a soap box of mine. When poverty is reduced and there are more jobs there would be less prejudice and hate. It is pretty simple but not likely to happen.

      Thanks so much for dropping by to read and leave a comment – I am honored Barry. Please come again.

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  11. Oh Paul – the start of your post reminded me of my uni days when we’d do ‘Politics in the Pub’. We’d all sit together and talk about what we’d seen or heard that week, the good, the bad and how when ‘we grew up’ we’d change those things we couldn’t understand like the inherent racism that seems to abound or the very real discrimination to those in lower socio-economic parts of society and more the deeply held sense of white entitlement [which I think differs slightly from racism in general.

    Your words painted such a clear picture and one that we’re becoming far to used to in Australia, a land built by a variety of different peoples from cultures and religions all over the world and yet now it seems we’ve forgotten that. Have you spoken to that young man again? Is he hungry because he’s too embarrassed to go to the food bank or more worryingly is he mentally all right as it seemed from your very clear word picture that this was a person severely depressed.

    Thank you for sharing your story and please send me a link to whenever you do a post be it guest or on your shared site. I’m rather overwhelmed email wise [election time in Oz and it’s heating up] and I would hate to miss something. Once again thank you for your words.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much for dropping by for a read and comment Jenni. It is a pleasure to have you here. I am sure you are right – the young black man was suffering form depression for sure. He just looked so clean and well maintained, except for his rail-like thinness and lack of energy- that I am sure there is a story behind his presence. People like Johnny are becoming more prevalent in out society as well. That hasn’t changed our culture yet – we are accepting 250,000 refugees this year from Syria alone as well as our normal immigrant levels. But it can be seen at street level as it ferments.

      I am honored that you visited Jenni and please drop by again.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Ha! So True X. In my experience, immigrants appreciate the freedom more and contribute more than those who take it for granted. Johnny’s is a twisted logic that does not work at all on any level. It just gives himvsomeone to blame and if there were no immigrants he would likely blame Sister Theresa or some such nonsensical person/group.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Oh yeah, nothing gives a better perspective on just how good we have it here in the US and Canada than living in a country where a lot of the rights and benefits taken for granted here just don’t exist.

        Liked by 1 person

  12. Perhaps there’s an opening for Johnny in Donald Trump’s campaign organization. And if Trump gets elected, Johnny can be Secretary of State.

    You live in a rough environment. What if you didn’t stand pretty tall and wide? Would there have been a problem? He ain’t heavy. He’s my blogger.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ha! Thanks so much for the read and comment Mark. An honor to have you visit. Yeah Johnny would do well in Trump’s government. Well, the weaker locals travel in groups around here. The single women are few and are tough – most I suspect carry knives or other non-gun weapons. Generally speaking I have always done OK in rough neighborhoods – I learned how when I was trucking in the Bronx and Chicago and downtown LA. The key is to be respectful of others, take no shit and be situationally aware. I’m a survivior. 😀

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  13. It bothers me to witness so many living on the streets. There is no reason for that (although some refuse help and are content to be addicts, drunks or have been there so long their capacity to interact with society has diminished along with thought processes – or the shelters won’t take pets, too and those are their only friends and comfort)
    We’ve always been a big mix of people here – there was/is prejudice but not just by one group – people tend to stick together and newcomers take a while to assimilate. The relatives of neighbors down the block who’ve recently escaped from all the chaos look like they are in culture shock -which is understandable.- the oldest man is always very angry and scowls hatefully. Hopefully, soon he will realize they are say and it’s ok.
    We were always taught as kids, color of a person didn’t mean a thing, you had to sit and watch to see how they behaved to decide whether they were a good person. It’s their behavior, not the skin color that’s important.
    It would be nice if everyone just went back to “do unto others as you wished done to you.” If people would just agree to follow that, there would be a big difference everywhere. But people say that’s old religious talk and not possible in the modern world. Not sure why they think that. Religious freedom was one of the important founding principles for this country. Religions does cause conflicts, but don’t they all preach kindness somewhere in their beliefs? Seems like people could sit down and agree to start with that.(a whole ‘nother topic)
    Take care and keep being a friend to those you meet as you do – that’s probably why you don’t have trouble in the neighborhood. Kindness and consideration goes a long way everywhere.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Great to have you visit Phil. I always look forward to your commentary – it never fails to intrigue. I agree – the golden rule exists in one form or another in every religion and they all do pronounce kindness but their actions seldom if ever match their stated beliefs. Humans are notoriously untrustworthy – unlike the family dog. I agree, street people are difficult to understand or help.

      Thanks again fr dropping by I am honored. Please come again.

      Liked by 1 person

      • People can distort and ruin any religion. One on one – or in times of disaster/need – people tend to overcome their mindsets and behave more humanely? Odd, isn’t that? Organized groups seems to be a difficulty. Certainly an intriguing species. Enjoyed the visit

        Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much Robert for the visit and compliment. It is a pleasure to have you drop by. I see you have gotten you mojo back and your posts are hilarious and such a special glimpse into a world the rest of us will seldom see. Your commentary on the hotel business is so much more interesting than anything I write. Thank you.

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    • Thanks so much for dropping by roughseasinthemed. It is great to see you here. So what depresses you about food banks?

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      • Complex topic RSITM. In my case it was a combination of colon cancer; the destruction of my kidneys by radiation treatment for the cancer resulting in permanent dialysis ; the onset of peripheral nerve destruction – both motor control and sensory as a result of the ongoing dialysis leading to an inability to walk any distance or stand for any time; maintaining a colostomy left from the cancer operations; reduced circulation as a result of the dialysis leading to infections and other issues;

        Notice none of those issues affect my ability to think at all and I have a lot of experience in my field including a blue ribbon education. So I went job hunting. I searched for 3 years, did about 40 phone interviews and 10 personal interviews (including one employer who flew me to the opposite side of the continent). I treated it like a job – working 40 hours per week job hunting. I put out over 600 resumes. And every time my medical condition came up – the whole conversation came to a shuddering halt. Not one single employer wanted to hire a medical liability – as they saw me – who had to spend 20 hours a week in dialysis. They never said that of course – that’s illegal but it was always that they would get back to me and they never did. I know I interview well not only because I have been told so, but because I interviewed hundreds when I was a manager and responsible for hiring (about 20 years of my life).

        And so I had no choice but to go on disability – not a lot of money per month. So you see the wealth and affluence you speak of is achieved by not hiring those who are seen as a potential financial liability. It is literally social Darwinism. If you are not healthy and strong and young (I’m 59) you are not employable. It is one of the dirty little secrets of capitalism. Ask anyone my age who has had to look for a job especially those with medical conditions.

        Once you are on a fixed income and are carefully budgeted, any unforeseen expenses cause havoc. I rely on the kindness of people to get by. Once I pay my rent (a single room in a dubious area) and food ($3.00 per meal is all I can afford and that does not include snacks or drinks in between – and it is difficult, at that price to get enough protein and vegetables which are required even more so because of my kidney condition) and payments on the money I borrowed to survive while I was battling cancer, and phone (there is no phone in my room so I have an old flip phone and the cheapest plan as a life line should I get took sick to get help or for communicating with the hospital), I am left with about $50 for the month. If I have to get to the hospital for an emergency, that is a $40 fare that is not reimbursed. I do get a co-pay subsidy on drugs but the provider often charges more than they are supposed to – sometimes as much as $50 per 3 month period and that is not covered. I buy my clothes at the Salvation Army and although they are very low cost, it still has to come out of the $50 per month. I have one pair of shoes that I bought on sale three years ago they are in good shape. I still wear a company parka in winter that I got from my last employer, about 7 years ago – it is well worn.

        That is just a small sampling of the reality of living on disability. There are months that if it were not for the food bank, I would go hungry. And even with the food bank, the last week of the month food is scarce and typically I lose about 8 pounds. But I put that back on when my check comes – it is mostly bread missing that causes the weight loss – I love bread but often can’t afford it at the end of the month.

        I hope this short missive helps you to understand why food banks are needed in affluent countries roughseasinthemed. They are affluent because they don’t hire the disabled or older workers and that way they reduce their risk and cost – in their eyes anyway, although I would argue that I could easily produce more value for a company than my cost.

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      • Thank you for taking the time to put together such a detailed – and personal – reply. I do hope you don’t think I was criticising the people who use the food banks, rather the system that produces the need. I used to work in cancer services and colo-rectal was one of the ones I knew more about. However, I don’t ever remember anyone mentioning radiotherapy affecting the kidneys as a side effect. Sort the cancer, live with a colostomy and end up on dialysis. Great 😦 Our societies really should look after everyone better, not just the young and fit, instead of chucking everyone who doesn’t fit the prescribed mould onto the scrap heap. One day …

        Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you roughseasinthemed. Yes the kidney failure was very rare. So rare that the radonc wanted to do a paper on my case. The issue was that the radiation caused scar tissue on the ureters which in turn damaged the kidneys – I am lucky in that I have about 10% functionality in one kidney , the other is dead. That means I can subsist without a renal diet – within reason (no high potassium, reduced fluid intake, reduced phosphate intake), One of the issues is that the dialysis and the colostomy interact. So, for instance, just before a scheduled dialysis, my colon will dump access fluid through the colostomy. This creates issues in that it is not reasonable to go too far from a bathroom. it is a complex existence. Like a row of dominoes, radiation can cause side effects up to 25 years after.

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      • Jeez Paul. What an absolute bummer. I can imagine the onc wanting to do a paper but it’s of no value to you 😦 Dialysis is indeed complex, not my field in terms of work, but a friend of ours was rushed in for emergency dialysis and every time he came off the machine his kidneys started to deteriorate again. Incidentally, re your earlier comment, I forgot to mention I do know what it is like job hunting in your 50s – unsuccessfully.

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      • Ummm, welcome to a very large, and growing, group of unemployed over 50,roughseasinthemed. I’ll pour you a cup of coffee, or something stronger if you wish.

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      • Thanks. Coffee rots my guts, I’ll take a beer please. I was offered a proofreading job in my late 40s. It was part-time and temporary. But when it was offered, they had no start date, no hours, and it was all so vague I stopped answering the phone. I had naively thought when I chucked my (well-paid) job in my early forties that it would be easy to get a job when I wanted one. After all, never had problems before. Ha! And turning 50???!!!! Old women are not job material. Ironically, I’ve just had a job spec sent through and a request to send my CV asap. Maybe I should just say I’m 56, are you still interested?

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      • Absolutely, I have always enjoyed women younger than me. 🙂 You know I don’t get it – when I was hiring I loved applicants in their 50’s and 60’s. First, they were so pleased to get a job, they were super loyal. Second, they came already having made their mistakes in life on someone else’s dime. Third, they were not going to worry about moving up in the organisation – unless I chose so. Fourth, there was no long term financial (retirement, etc) commitments. Fifth they were tough having lasted this long without giving up. Sixth,they invariably had a positive attitude that rubbed off on others. And so on.

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  14. Hello Paul and Mark! I’m sorry that I’ve been away for so long.
    Your story had me enthralled, sad, and always hopeful. Hopeful that more people will see you like you see them, Paul. Sad because many don’t.
    A reader mentioned the sadness of the food bank in a country rich with everything. I concur. I’ve cooked and served and organized food banks only to drive home in a heap of guilt and emotions. A much larger discussion, I’m sure.
    I love your writing, Paul and am so happy that our paths have crossed. Speaking of….any concrete plans for your May visit?

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    • Hi Mama! So great to have you drop by for a read. It is a complex topic for sure. I am a fan of teaching a man to fish and yet when no one will do that (i.e. give each the help they need to be self-sustaining), giving him a fish is the only other option.

      The trip date has been pushed back to mid to late June Mama. The issue is construction work that has to be done to the house that could be interrupted by weather. We are getting closer – and my fingers are crossed.

      Thanks s much for the visit – I am honored.

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      • By the way, I’m drooping down through Topeka just to see you. As long as you are anywhere in the northern or central US, I can find you and we can have coffee. Most of my visits will be in New York and Ontario – after you I was intending to go see Ned in Oregon, so there are many many possible routes in between that could, if we wished, be through virtually any northern or central town. We’ll make it work. 😀

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  15. my comment disappeared from last week – maybe went to spam – I dunno – but I enjoyed this post Paul – and sorry you have to sit through dialysis = my mom had a kidney transplant and while waiting – she had many days of dialysis – and so I know the time spent – she also met some cool folks – but wow –
    anyhow, hug to johnny and I enjoyed the comments here too – and liked this:

    “street people are difficult to understand or help…”
    and what I do is offer a smile,. help when I can – and human respect.

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