Thursday, September 27, 2012

Winners And Losers

This has got to stop.    I'm not sure if this is a growing trend, or a trend that is just now coming to light because of the internet, but either way, it has to end.

It seems that debates, regarding just about every subject, are pared down quickly into abstract, unreal, and exaggerated points of view.

The competition to "win" the debate, I think is to blame.    Instead of admitting weaknesses in one's own argument, people will insist that there is absolutely no weakness in their argument.   Instead of allowing that their opponent in the debate has some valid points, people will deny that their opponent knows anything about the subject.  Not only are such debates futile, they prevent any real truth from being discovered.  Instead of stating facts, people's arguments devolve into meaningless talking points and propaganda.

No one owns all the facts.  No one is completely right or completely wrong.

In debatable matters, No one is completely correct or completely incorrect.   No one is completely innocent or completely guilty.   No one is a total victim while the other is a total criminal.    No one is 100% good or 100% bad.   No one knows everything and no one is completely ignorant.

In the same vein, you cannot judge and label any person to be completely one thing or another.  Even Hitler, perhaps the most sinister person to have ever lived, was not 100 percent evil.  His paintings show that he had an artistic talent and sensitivity, he loved dogs, and he truly cared for Eva Braun.   I don't say this in defense of the man, but only to prove that no label of a person is completely correct.   On the flip side, whoever may be your hero, and in whom is see absolutely no wrong, trust me, he's not perfect (or her, depending on whom you idolize).

This applies not only to people but to everything - both intellectual and material.  Regardless of the issue being debated, there are no absolutes.  If we could just keep this in mind when we discuss things, we would be much better off.   We would be more open minded, willing to admit our mistakes, and from that we would grow, both intellectually, and in character.

Monday, September 24, 2012

At A Loss For Words

I just can't think of anything to write, that I haven't already written about.    I've been away from the homeless life for so long that I have no news to report.  What I have written, I've written twice before already.  Have I covered the whole gambit of homeless issues?   I know readers don't tend to look favorably on me writing about other subjects.  But then, it's not like anyone's been clicking the donation button either.   Am I beholding to the audience?  Truth be told, most of my readers never check out my latest post, but come here by way of Google, looking for specific articles I wrote years ago.   In that respect, my readership is on the rise - not only because school is now back in session - each month for the past year has averaged 1500 more readers than the year before.  And that makes the lack of donations all that much more puzzling.  One thing, there are a gazillion more homeless voices on the internet now, other homeless people, many many homeless service providers asking for donations, etc.  People used to think my writings were worth a donation.   Now I have to spend my days trying to make money by other means, meaning I don't even have time to check up on the latest issues on the street.    I could live on a 700 dollar a month allowance.  Then I could do some serious advocacy.   Anyone out there with the resources want to fund my activities for a year?

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Homeless Families

     I have been in and out of homelessness for the past 30 years. 14 of those years I've been literally homeless. 10 of those years I've been in the grey area - living in halfway houses, etc.  In the midst of that, for 6 years I was married - had a job, bought a house, two kids etc.   When my now exwife asked for a divorce I knew my life would fall apart and I would return to streets.   For a split second I thought about taking my kids with me, back into homelessness.  And I immediately decided, "no way in hell."      You will hear most homeless parents say something to the effect "I love my children too much to be separated from them."   Well, I loved my children too much to put them through that experience - considering everything that a child would experience, and witness other people doing, etc.   I would NEVER put my children through that.   Although it broke my heart, I left my children with my ex.  But even if it were a situation where both my ex and I were to become homeless, I would have left my children with family, I would have put them up for adoption, rather than expose my kids to the streets.   Personally, I think these parents are being extremely selfish, putting their children at undue risk.   I have known some homeless families that had been dealing with poverty a long time, and they knew that having children with them would give them preferential treatment at all the shelters and homeless service providers they visited.   They were using their children in an unseemly manner so to gain favor - they got first of everything, and the best of everything, that homeless service providers offered - the best food, the best lodging, the most services, etc.   Personally, I wish that family services would get more involved, and remove kids from parents who have become homeless.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Quick To Judge Slow to Think

I've mentioned this subject before.  It is the lead article in this week's The Contributor.   People see a homeless person with a cell phone and they become suspicious.   Why does this homeless person have a cell phone?  How could he afford one?   Is he really not poor, really not homeless?   People ask these questions often about the homeless who are selling The Contributor.    They think to themselves that this vendor must not really be homeless, that he's pulling some kind of scam.

Let's back up a bit here and really give the situation a good think, ok?

Ask yourself:
Are homeless people always homeless?  Nope
Have homeless people always been homeless?  Nope
Will homeless people always be homeless? Nope

Now we can admit that homeless people  haven't always been homeless.   Then there must have been a time before they became homeless, when they had a home, which means they had a job, which also means they had friends, and family.   All of which means they must have had a phone so to communicate with others.  Yes?  Yes!

What is a person to do with their phone once they become homeless?  Throw it away? Give it to some kids to play with as a toy?  Let me tell you, as a person becomes homeless, they do everything they can to keep as many of their valuables and other important possessions as they can.    You will find in many homeless people's possession items such as, identification papers, birth certificates, medical information, contact information to family and friends and employers, family photos, etc.   All of these things they have kept with them, from a time before they were homeless.   And, among the several practical tools people will keep with them as they become homeless is a phone.

Cellphones are easily the most important things anyone can have, even more important than a wallet.  A phone is a person's connection to the world.  For a homeless person, escaping homelessness without a phone is impossible.   No employer with hire a person who does not have a phone.  How willing would a landlord be to rent to someone who does not have a phone?   How would a person even be able to discuss with a land lord renting a place, without a phone?

Many homeless people keep the phones they have had since before they became homeless.   But, many homeless people buy phones while homeless.   Yes, many homeless people have jobs.  The problem is that many jobs don't pay nearly enough to take a person off the streets.  So, the homeless person has to work his way up the ladder, moving from job to the next, until he eventually lands the job that will pay enough to get him off the street.   How is this homeless person supposed to manage this climb up the ladder without a phone?

For many homeless people The Contributor is the first job they have had in a while.   So, after they get themselves a good meal, one of the first things they do with the money they've earned is get themselves a phone, or reactive their old phone.

It's the first step in the long journey out of homelessness.

It should also be considered a good thing, to see a homeless person with something like a cellphone, or a bicycle, or any other object that costs a bit of money.   It means that the person is not spending their money on drugs or alcohol.   It means the money the homeless person has earned is going towards things that will help them escape homelessness.   And isn't that what everyone wants?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Anti Social

Someone once labeled me Anti Social.   I was puzzled by this because I certainly was not against people being social.   I have always held that being social was a good thing, and that people should socialize more often.   Most of the world's problems seem to arise out of a lack of socializing.   I know I don't socialize as much as I should, but that was not for lack of wanting.

Evidently, that was not what he was talking about.   He called me Anti Social because I was strongly opinionated and argumentative, and because I found making my point during a discussion more important that protecting a person's feelings, because they may be offended by my own opinion.

No doubt I was hurt by having this negative moniker thrust upon me.   The person who said this was popular among a group of people I attempted to socialize with, and so I assumed the group all had similar feelings about me. I then retreated from my attempts to befriend them.   I understand that my argumentativeness - 99 percent of which occurred in an online chat room - offended some, and that others were offended that I had offended their friends.   To say that I lack interpersonal communication skills would be an understatement.    I think that's the crux of the problem.

When a person displays a lack of proper social skills, no one ever considers why the person is behaving the way he does.   All they want to do is distance themselves from him.    Yet my argumentative nature was not due to anger towards, or a disliking of, the people I talked with.  I just did not know how else to communicate my ideas.

Wanting to understand myself, and why I behaved the way I did, led me to the discovery of Asperger's Syndrome.   It was quite the epiphany, it answered so many questions.   When I surveyed the significant events of my life in light of Asperger's, the pieces of the puzzle began to fall into place.

There are two main paths a person's life will follow if they have Aspergers, either they go on to do great things in life, by way of the peculiarities of Asperger's, or they live lives of complete despair - the difference  depending primarily on how the parents responded to their child's peculiar Asperger influenced behavior.

For those who did great things, the thing they all seem to have in common is that they came from families of educated, intellectual people.  Temple Grandin's mother was a Harvard graduate, John Elder Robinson's father was a college professor.   They were raised in environments were their eccentric behavior was not belittled, insulted, considered "bad" or a source of contention.

My parents found my behavior to be disconcerting and soon labeled it offensive.  They responded by belittling and insulting and embarrassing me.  I assume they believed that treating me this way would motivate me to act "normal."  Being chastised by my parents became a daily routine, which eventually became contagious so that my extended family and neighbors soon treating me the same way.   Eventually I lost the motivation to talk to and do things with other people.  I was about 8 years old then.  My only solace was vegging out in front of the TV for several hours a day.   This treatment had the effect of stunting my already dysfunctional social skills. 

My parents were not intellectuals,  they certainly were not well educated.   They had their own insecurities, and inabilities, which made life for me that much more confusing to me.  My mother also suffered from depression and other neurosis.  She had created a small world unto herself where everyone who wanted to, or had to, interact with her knew they could only approach her in one certain way, otherwise she's flip out.   She turned our family into her own little protective cocoon, where her ideas and thoughts about herself and the world never went challenged.    This led to even more social isolation for me.   Even today I don't have the social maturity of someone my age.

Needless to say, I was unprepared for life on my own in the big world when it came time for me to leave home.   And I resisted as long as I could.  But at the age  of 21 my father told me I had to move out.   I did, and within a couple months, if even that, I was homeless.
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There is nothing I'd like more than to be accepted into the social circles I encounter through life.  But even now, I lack the skills to make it happen.   The loneliness used to inspire thoughts of suicide.   But as much as I wanted to die, I just could not kill myself.   Now in my 50s, I've grown accustomed to living alone.

As families gather for the holidays, as friends meet up at bars and clubs, or go on outings together, visit each other in their homes, entertain each other, talk to each other - the bonds of friendship strengthening, I'll be on my computer, trying to keep myself busy.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Eddie

Eddie was the very first homeless person I met who actually left me with a positive impression -  so few have over the years.

Eddie was always happy and always eager to make friends. In fact, that was kind of his trade mark thing. Whenever he was drunk, which was most of the time, he asked everyone who passed by him, or looked in his direction, "Are you my friend?" His voice was a high pitched and lilting southern accent.

Steve Martin said that a sad song just cannot be played on a banjo. Eddie's voice was like that, the tone was too friendly and upbeat to believe he ever spoke a mean word and meant it. He loved country music and if he was drunk enough, he'd be singing, and taking requests. His favorite seemed to be the Bellamy Brothers' "If I said you had a beautiful body, would you hold it against me?" And, usually when singing that line he was also giving a telephone poll a bear hug and dry humping it. He was funny too.

One day we were talking about past jobs, and he revealed that he used to be a machinist, and worked on some big equipment. He then proceeded to take off his shirt and flexed his biceps. Everyone gathered was astonished at his atlas build, not an ounce of fat on him and he even sported a decent 6pack. Not bad for a an guy who was at least in his 50's if not older and who had been an alcoholic for several years.

Sometimes he would get so drunk that he couldn't stand up. He could barely move from where he laid, his body partially propped up against the outer wall of the rescue mission. All the more he would prompt people to answer his question, which at times like these sounded more like begging, "Are you my friend?"

Not only did he wish to be friends with the world, being that he was so big hearted, but there also seemed a bit of fear in his voice. He knew he was vulnerable in that drunken state and for his own protection spent what little energy he had befriending people so that they wouldn't roll him instead. (If you're not familiar, "Getting rolled" is a mugging that usually happens to drunks down alleys. Eddie was a tough guy, and I'm sure he could handle a beat down better than most people. I"m sure he experienced his share.

After my first experience of homelessness, I joined the Navy and was gone from Nashville for a couple years. When I returned, Eddie was no longer around. I never heard what happened to him.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

A Shayloss Video Reply

Shay Carl has a youtube channel called Shayloss where he talks about his own weight loss goals.  Now he's motivating others to meet their own personal goals, for weight loss or happiness or whatever.   I am making occasional video responses to his vlogs.   You can find his youtube  channel at http://youtube.com/shayloss


Thursday, September 6, 2012

Positive Versus Negative

Every once in a while it's a good idea for me to reassess my current life situation, and then consider what I can do to improve it.

I'm not wallowing in self pity, as some may claim, when I talk about how screwed up my life has been, especially the early years of my life.  Our early years define us in many ways, and affect how we interact with life for the remainder of our years.   Just as no one is born a racist yet by being raised by racists, one become a racist, no one is born with overwhelming negative thoughts about life and about themselves, and yet here I am, negative as can be.

The people who raised me were negative people,  (I no longer refer to them as my family).   Not only were they of a general negative disposition, their interaction with me included an extra helping of negativity.   Even after I moved away from home, all they could see were the negative aspects of whatever did, and they never hesitated to tell me what they thought.    Because of this, negativity dominated my life. I grew up thinking in completely negative terms,  I saw only the bad in things, viewed myself in only negative terms.   No wonder I was just a lump of a human being, no friends, no self esteem.  For the first few decades of my life, thoughts of suicide were prominent  in my head.

Oh, there were some few moments when things got better, and could have changed my life, but they never lasted.  The influence of my parents negativity was that strong.   When I was actually experiencing and thinking in positive terms the few non-family people around me usually noticed and mentioned the change.

"You've been walking home from school with your head up, usually you're just looking at the ground," a neighbor once said.   it was said with my mother standing next to me.  It didn't phase her.  It didn't make her pause and think for the moment about my overall state of mind.  My mother was too rapped up in herself to notice such things.

Fast forward to today.  It's been about a decade since I last spoke to my parents.  I've been in therapy for a while.  I've been working to overcome my problems, first by making myself aware of what my problems were, then finding ways in which to fix them.

One of the things that helps  me realize just how negative  I can be is to witness truly positive people as they live their lives.   Seeing what they have as a good thing, I've tried to engage them, make friends with them, join in with their group of friends.   What happens, though, is that my negativity eventually comes out.  It becomes more than these positive people want to deal with, and so these friendships, or attempts as friendship, don't last very long.   I imagine their view of me is much like the SNL character "Debbie Downer".    And I soon revert back to being a lonely, friendless, lump of negativity.

Sure, this is all very sad.   But my life is not a complete loss at this point.  Actually, things are a lot better today.   Yeah, I'm still struggling with life, but there is  hope.    As has become apparent at this point, every good thing that has come my way, has had a positive affect on me and my life, has come to me by way of the Internet.   It is near impossible for me to interact with people face to face, without there eventually becoming a problem.  But on the internet, I can experience people, and life in a safety zone of sorts.    Yes, I have lost friends via the internet as well.  But on the internet I am comfortable enough to continue experiencing and learning about life - something I just can't do in the "real world."

For about a year and a half I have been watching videos on youtube.com, made by a guy known as Shay Carl.   Every day he posts a new video, about his family.   There's really nothing special about how the videos are made.  They are just family videos, they usually last about 15 minutes.

The thing about Shay Carl's videos is that he and his family are the most genuinely positive people I've ever seen.   They are happy people and it comes across in the videos so that watching them being happy makes the viewer happy too.  Their positive attitude about everything is contagious.  I can't help but feel better after watching them.    These people are not fake, are not trying to be something other than themselves, they have the same general family difficulties as any other.   Yet, whatever the problem, they respond to each other, not with angry words and hateful thoughts, but with showering love on each other.    The four children are well behaved, not because they fear the wrath of their parents but because they are so loved by their parents that they purposely honor their parents by being good.   (Children who are well loved by their parents will honor their parents.)

So, for about 18 months now, every single day, I watch one or more of Shay Carl's videos.   And seeing the love and happiness and overall positive attitudes of that family is having a positive affect on me.   Environment means so much.   I was raised in a negative environment and so I ended up being a negative person.   Now I surround myself with as much positiveness as I can, and for this I am becoming  more positive - I am becoming happy.

Shay has also become aware of the positive impact he is having on his fans, and has recently started another youtube.com show that he uses to help motivate others.   About a year ago, Shay was overweight, and he became motivated to lose his "excess Shay".  He has since lost over 100 lbs.   He even inspired some of his fans to lose weight too.    Since then, Shay has been working to help inspire people to do things to improve their lives, in whatever area of their life they want to improve.

He has set this month, September, as a goal setting month.   He has motivated several hundred people, including myself, to set goals for this month, losing weight, saving money, or whatever.   And every day this month he's making a video, talking about our goals, how to achieve them, how to stay positive about them, encouraging everyone along the way to achieving their goals - and even encouraging people to network amongst themselves, those who have similar goals, to be each other's support and inspiration.

I have set some goals, including exercising more, and working to get my blog converted into book form, for kindle.   So far, I'm still on track.   Right now I can only do 5 push ups, and it kills me to do them.  But I am working towards the goal of being able to do 20 push ups by the end of the month.   I'm also transposing at least 5000 words a day from my blog.  By the end of the month I should have a 400 page book completed.

Being able to complete these goals will go a long way in helping me build my self esteem, which will make my happier, and thus more positive in life.   Wish me luck.