MY FRIEND GEORGE
JULY 3, 2009
About twelve years ago, while working as a classical music host at our local public radio station, I met a most interesting man. George was (and is) a very introverted person, quiet and always dressed as if he were a lumber jack in the forests of central Washington state.
George loves classical music, especially George Frederic Handel's oratorios. He spent almost all of his waking hours listening to either to public radio or his vast collection of vinyl albums (he is old school and never owned a CD player).
And books! George loved books. He would travel many miles to visit used book stores and once owned as many as five thousand volumes, many of which were out-of-print items that could be sold on e-bay for a small mint! His mind is phenomenal! Among his favorite reads were books written by Ayn Rand, Thomas Aquinas, Edmund Burke, Rene Descartes, Plato, Immanuel Kant and sermons by Charles Spurgeon! This certainly indicates someone with a broad spectrum of knowledge. He would tell you he is but a simple man with a simple mind.
These days, though, George has no books, no radio, no records and no place to live. He currently resides on the front porch of a friend's duplex apartment and when it gets cold, he is often invited to sleep on the kitchen floor by a young lady who lives in the upstairs apartment and who suffers from a bi-polar mental disorder. He washes himself off in an old rundown wooden garage down from his porch. He eats an occasional meal at churches and food shelters in the area and gets some food assistance from the Salvation Army. But he never asked for it as his few acquaintances have put him and these services together.
Even though George's vast collection of books is gone, he spends most of his weekdays in the public library, reading and broadening his horizons and on weekends he cuts grass and trims bushes for neighbors. He also attends church on Sundays (something he has just started doing for the first time in thirty years).
You see, George was once accused by a female co-worker of sexual harassment, which was proven to be false. And although he didn't loose his job over it his life was made difficult. Being unable to work in that environment, he had to quit his job. Unfortunately, for George, his somewhat eccentric ways are terribly misunderstood by potential employers and almost all but his neighbors think he is a bum. Yet, George never begs! Because he is a recluse he is ridiculed, often considered "unemployable." His Renaissance approach to reality precludes him from having any "specialties" and is therefore considered as someone without marketable skills.
He lived in an apartment with his mother all of his life. When she died a few years back, George was able to hold on to the apartment and most of his possessions for about five years. He lived off of his mother's small provisions. But one by one, George was forced to sell his books. No one wants vinyl records these days and when he was forced out of the only home he knew, his records were placed in some storage bin but a few were given away..
George wants no pity. He seeks no handouts and he has refused some help from his two brothers, one of whom offered to buy him a small fix-en-up house in which he could stay -- rent-free. But George fretted about it being located in a dangerous neighborhood.
Yet, George likes his life, but he is in constant pain as his fifty-two year old body is wracked with pain in his joints, his knees are bad and he is having a terrible time with his teeth and gums. He looks way beyond his years -- like he is 75 years old.
"What's George's problem" you ask? He will tell you he has no problems. He just wants to learn more and be of no burden to anyone. The problem is, no one cares how much George knows or what he has to offer. He is a strange looking man who always appears as if he just jumped out of a box car from a moving train.
His is a true story that should spur compassion from even the most anti-welfare proponent in the world - like me!
I write this article about my George because he is the first true poor person I have ever met who really has fallen on hard times as he cannot find a meaningful job that fits his temperament or his appearance. He would do perfectly well as a salesman in a bookstore, or a clerk in a library. But who would hire someone in lumberjack clothing? That's all he has!
I am amazed at how through all the dilemmas he finds contentment. His is one of not having to worry about owing or being in debt to any man or institution. But more than that he lives day-to-day without regard to what the future may hold. I guess that makes him fortunate.
Now I don't advocate that the poor live like George, that is, being without transportation and living on the front porch of a friends duplex. But I think George sets the example for all of us. That is, we should never expect someone else, like taxpayers and the government, to take care of us. George refuses to use Medicaid, and, although he was on food stamps at on time, he won't take advantage of the various welfare-type programs made available via the federal government.
George has pride. Not the haughty kind. But one with dignity.
What ever happened to pride? I mean the kind where a person doesn't "expect" support from people they will never see or meet? Many would say: "Let the government take care of you!" Well, our country's dear and most beloved Savior, Barack Obama, promises that no one will go hungry and no one will be without a roof over their heads. In fact, no one has to worry about any lending institution imposing limits on borrowing and, in most cases, without the worry of having to pay off the debts incurred in case on goes jobless -- permanently!
Welfare as we once had it - like under Lyndon Johnson and the followers of his Great Society - will return and the government will assist in more ways than it ever has. This is the Democrat's dream and, if it comes true, will ensure them more votes in future elections.
"Why?" you ask. Because this is a "give me, give me give me" society in which we live. One in which many social bureaucrats and leading civil rights leaders encourage the poor to play the "Victim" card.
The choice the poor must make is whether they will fall prey to the government's intent to buy their votes with food, services and money (which in turn would be used to buy cell phones, Lexus's, drugs and illegal guns in the street) or have the attitude of my friend George. I think George is going overboard for refusing help from his family. Because family bonds are supposed to be so strong that the government couldn't imitate it.
Yet the choice the poor, indeed everyone, have is one of personal responsibility or slavery. Yes, I said slavery! For once one becomes trapped in the welfare circle it will become hard to get out and all that remains will be total dependence on the taxpayer (through our leaders in Washington). This, in turn, will hold them captive for a long, long time. Worse, all dignity and pride goes down the toilet.
My friend George does not know his future or the future of our country. Yet, he will be quick to tell you that even though the world and society as a whole seems to be spinning out of control, God is and always will be in control. How can someone in his condition feel or believe like that? I don't know, but George is content and his contentment humbles me. I wish it would humble our country.
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