I just came across this on CNN.com–it’s just wonderful. I just wrote to Omni Hotels’ corporate offices to commend the manager of their Atlanta Hotel, Scott Stuckey, for doing such an amazingly wonderful thing to reward Joel Hartman–a homeless man who, while dumpster-diving, found a tourist’s wallet and went from hotel to hotel to find her so that he could return it (Mr. Hartman also freely admits that he has problems with drugs, which makes his act even more commendable, for obvious reasons). If I ever go on vacation again, and I can afford it, I’m staying at an Omni (I actually did stay at the one in NYC when I was actively doing travel writing, and it was awesome–especially for a New York hotel!).
Tag Archives: compassion
Having read another infuriating post today on the pigeon website I mentioned in a few posts a few days ago (this time about someone who found yet another lost racing pigeon, and was advised to “withhold food for a day”, take him ten miles away, and then release him to try–on a very empty stomach, and apparently with hundreds of miles to travel–to find his way home again), I have been struggling with myself to just leave it alone this time. Clearly I’m not going to change anyone’s views on the subject, and I’m just too thin-skinned to take the abuse I got the last time again (clearly the “best defense is a good offense” rule is useful when one is trying to defend the indefensible).
So, instead, I’m going to post an article I wrote years ago about animal abuse here. It was originally published in the now-defunct ASPCA Animal Watch, and subsequently in Big Apple Parent. It’s not about pigeon-racing or “dove release”, but perhaps it touches on the same kind of thinking to some extent. Posting it here will be the internet equivalent of sitting on my hands or biting my tongue to keep myself out of trouble. (And yes, this blog IS about my book, Holding Breath: A Memoir of AIDS’ Wildfire Days, and I do seem to be posting quite a few off-topic posts these days. On the other hand, there is a thread running through the posts, I think, that binds them together. As I’ve always been sickened by arrogance and ignorance about, and cruelty toward, the homeless, people with AIDS, people with substance abuse problems, etc., I am also sickened by the arrogant sense that as human beings we have “dominion” over other creatures, and therefore have the right to subject them to suffering and death for profit, entertainment, or just because we can. Either way, to put it bluntly, it’s bullshit.)
Thank you for your continued patience with my self-righteous rants. I will get back to my regularly scheduled posts about the book anon.
Here’s the article, which is entitled “Teach Your Children”:
I really do try to spend as little time as possible online (no, really–I do), and for that reason it’s rare that I read others’ blogs. No doubt I’m missing a lot of good stuff, but I do like to try to get outside and do other things from time to time.
However, a few weeks ago I got a “Like” on this blog, and, although I usually don’t take the time to do so, something told me to take a look at the blog that belongs to the person who did the “Liking.” (I still find this business of “liking,” “friending,” etc., a little ridiculous, but that’s beside the point.)
What I found was one of the most worthwhile uses of blog-space that I’ve ever seen. The blog, which is called, “Gotta Find a Home” (http://gottafindahome.wordpress.com/), is written by a man named Dennis Cardiff, who has befriended (and by that I mean that he has become a true friend to them–it’s clear that he loves and respects them as they deserve to be loved and respected) a group of homeless people where he lives. His posts are simply records of the daily conversations he has with them when he visits with them. Through him, we see their struggles, their sense of humor, their failings (failings no worse than those of anyone else), their hopes. Mr. Cardiff neither condescends to nor attempts to make heroes of his friends. He simply sees them, loves them, and–most importantly–lets them know that he really cares about them as they are. He doesn’t try to “save” anyone (although I’m certain that if one of them asked for his help with something he would easily give it), and he doesn’t try to convert anyone.
Here’s a quote from his introduction to “Gotta Find a Home”:
I can’t do much for these people except to show them love, compassion, an ear to listen, perhaps a breakfast sandwich and a coffee. I would like to do more. To know them is to love them. What has been seen cannot be unseen.
When I lived in New Jersey, I became good friends with a number of the homeless people in Hoboken. When I had some money, I would give them some of it, or buy them something to eat (I am not congratulating myself for this; for whatever reason, it always makes me really happy to do so, and I always say a little prayer of thanks for being given the opportunity). But very often we would just talk for a while. I would ask about how they were doing; they would tell me stories from their lives before they became homeless, or ask about how my son was. Sometimes we just made jokes and talked about whatever insanity was going on in the world at the time. On many occasions one or several of them would cheer me up when I was having a bad time, and offer advice. I moved away over three years ago, and I still miss all of them–really miss them.
Of course, my relationship with David (the man I loved and lost to AIDS in 1990–the man about whom I wrote Holding Breath: A Memoir of AIDS’ Wildfire Days) probably has something to do with my feelings about people who are homeless. He had been homeless for a short time before I met him. I suppose I always see him in the other people I’ve met who are on the street, and it’s easy to apply the love I had for him to them. And when I hear about a person like Dennis Cardiff, who would have been a real friend to David too, it makes me happy–really happy.
I hope you’ll visit Dennis’ blog. As far as role-models go (at least as far as I can tell from reading his blog), you can’t do much better.
I won’t be posting many (if any) more excerpts from Holding Breath: A Memoir of AIDS’ Wildfire Days here, for the all-too-obvious reason that I’d like people to buy the book. But I did want to post this excerpt:
“Except for when I was a child growing up in a very Catholic family, I’ve never been a ‘religious’ person in the traditional sense…
Recently, however, I’ve become a big fan of Jesus—not Jesus the Son of God, not Jesus, product of the Virgin Birth, not the bloodied caricature in gaudy prints on people’s walls, and certainly not the holy battering-ram used by those who chatter on about their personal relationships with him while at the same time using his image to justify the self-righteous, intolerant, and breathtakingly cruel behavior that he tried so hard to get people to change—but Jesus the man, the teacher.
Growing up, in church and Sunday school and elsewhere, I’d heard phrases like ‘God is love,’ and ‘Love thy neighbor as thyself,’, and ‘Judge not, lest ye be judged,’ and ‘Blessed are the merciful,’ so often, and from so many hypocrites, that the words, and the things that Jesus actually tried to teach, became nothing more than empty slogans that I no longer even heard.
But I’ve begun to hear them again, and to understand what Jesus, the man, so desperately and ultimately in such futility tried to teach. A short time ago I was having a discussion with a man who had made a comment to the effect that the homeless should just help themselves. Thinking of David, and of all the other people I’d met and worked with over the years who had found themselves desperate and with nothing left that would be considered valuable in this world, I tried to tell the man that, once someone reaches that state of having nothing, it becomes almost impossible for him to help himself. Those people—the despised, the sick, the ones driven by circumstances to desperate acts—are the ones with whom Jesus would have wanted to spend his time, and are the ones to whom he felt God’s love should be channeled through those who have the means to do so. It’s those who have the advantages of wealth, education, health, and decent childhoods in which love was freely given, and who nevertheless refuse to help those without those advantages and think of them as inferior and unworthy, whom Jesus would, perhaps, despise, if he ever despised anyone.
People have sometimes told me that I had “compassion” for David. I tell them that compassion had nothing to do with it—I loved him, loved spending time with him, couldn’t imagine how I could go on living my life once he was gone…
…Yet perhaps it was the fact that, by some twist of fate or destiny, he found someone who loved him unconditionally, loved him as he should have been loved from the beginning, when he had reached that point of having nothing, that helped give him what he needed to find his better self. He must have known that it was there, as I always did, but maybe if he had been left alone and with nothing in those last few months he would not have been able to reach it in time.
Jesus, the man, the teacher, would have loved David, and he would have loved that I loved David too. That, in itself, is enough to make me a fan.”