Friday, November 9, 2012

False Start Friday: Week One

Thought for the day:  Keep on beginning and failing. Each time you fail, start all over again, and you will grow stronger until you have accomplished a purpose--- not the one you began with perhaps, but one you'll be glad to remember.  [Annie Sullivan]
Having oodles and oodles of money under your mattress doesn't do much good if you never get to spend any of it, and squirreling away all your old writing in a drawer doesn't do much good, either. So why not pull some of it out?

First off, thanks to Suze for hosting this False Start Friday challenge to nudge some of us to do just that. For this first week, I'm pulling out something I wrote in the late eighties or so, when I was even more of a bleeding heart than I am now. Hope ya like it. If not, be kind. Poor thing's been shoved in the back of a drawer for a long time...
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    They shuffle along in single file, these people that society tries to forget. When herded together into one faceless crowd and labeled the homeless, it is surely easier for society to forget them. It's not so easy for me, for I've seen their faces and touched their hands. It's painfully hard to remember and impossibly hard to forget the individual faces.
    One by one, they pass, their hands reaching out for a plate of hot food. Some hands tremble and shake perceptibly; others, roughened by years of hard work, remain comparatively steady. Many hands have thick yellow nails, stained by years of nicotine addiction. Some of the people shamble along slowly, shoulders stooped and eyes downcast. It's as though they've swallowed the poisonous propaganda that deems them less than human. Others manage to maintain their dignity, and walk with shoulders back and a ready smile upon their lips. And still others exude such hostility and anger, it's almost palpable.
    Many of them are regular visitors to the soup kitchen. They remember me, and shout a greeting my way. I stop and chat and laugh with them as I go among the tables, pouring coffee. I see men, women, and children of all races and ages. Some are very ill, either physically or mentally. One man grabs me each time I pass and begs me to pray for him. He babbles on almost incoherently about countless unseen assailants who are out to get him, but he always says very clearly, "Pray for me." Some of these people reek of alcohol and vomit, or are strung out on some kind of drug. Several men have told me that they have AIDS.
    Some complain about the food; others are humbly grateful, and bow their heads for a moment before they eat. Some are openly belligerent, and throw angry curses often, and a fist or chair occasionally; others laugh and flirt with me, and gather around the piano to sing.
    Most of them are dirty, and their smells are offensive. Their teeth may be rotted, their hair may be tangled, and their clothes may be ragged. But above all else, they are all people. They all deserve to be treated with respect and human dignity. The homeless are not a faceless mass of humanity. They have very real, very individual faces. And that face, but for the grace of God, could be yours. Or mine.

*****

Interested in rescuing one of your long-lost gems and posting it next Friday? Let Suze know on her blog, and you'll be good to go. Subliminal Coffee (the thinking person's cafe)

                       Until next time, take care of yourself. And each other.

56 comments:

  1. Susan, I think this is beautiful. Was it meant to be the beginning of a longer piece, or an essay in itself?

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    1. Thanks. I'm not really sure what it was meant to be... maybe a letter to the editor? I just wrote it, and then shoved it aside. Glad you liked it.

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  2. Thought provoking and touching. Glad you brought it out of its drawer.

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  3. Now you've gone and brought tears to my ears. Powerful, beautiful piece. Thank you for digging it out of the drawer.

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    1. Tears are good. Knowing what an enormous bleeding heart I was back then, I probably had tears in my eyes while I was writing it, too.

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  4. Thanks for sharing your piece. It was written beautifully and honest.

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  5. Thanks, Susan. This is powerful, both the writing and the message.
    Karen

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    1. Thank you. It's a message I felt (and still feel) very strongly about.

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  6. Beautiful piece. It is so easy to 'not see' the homeless and destitute.

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    1. Thanks. You're right. Too many times, society thinks of them as little more than an inconvenient annoyance.

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  7. Thanks, Susan. Your piece is timely for me. Tomorrow will be my first visit to a homeless shelter. My husband has been working with homeless people for years, and even my daughters have helped out. But tomorrow will be my first time, and I am a bit nervous. It's not because I don't want to be around them, but it is because I cry easily when I see people in need. And, it hurts when I can't "fix" things for them. So please say a prayer for me. :)

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    1. I'll definitely say a prayer for you, but I'm sure you'll do great. Just try to look past the "need" and see the person behind it.

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  8. Sus, I think what I love most about this piece is the insight it gives me into you -- not to mention the way you prefaced it, describing yourself as a little more of a 'bleeding heart' once upon a time. The man who clutched you and asked you to pray because of his unseen assailants is very vivid in my mind's eye and I'm curious how long you volunteered there (and how long it's been since the last time.) Also, the piano, was it tuned?

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  9. I volunteered there for a dozen years or more, but it's been a while since I went. (Long story... we changed churches, blah, blah, blah.) As for the piano, it could've definitely used a tuning, but nobody really cared. They found unabashed joy in the singing and companionship. (P.S. I'm still a bleeding heart... shhhhh!)

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    1. Sus, you have some excellent comments on your piece here and I am so glad to see that. Volunteering for a dozen years is really something. No false start, there!

      I kind of like the idea of a piano out of tune bringing that sort of joy in such a setting. And I think, in my imagination, I heard it that way.

      I can't thank your beautiful bleeding heart enough for the support you showed this week's participants and the idea of FSF in general. You are a good person with an open, giving heart and I pray His blessings on your head come back a thousand fold. I'd be willing to bet they already have over the course of what is obviously a beautiful life.

      33

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    2. Thanks, Suze. You're too kind. And you're right: life is definitely good. And oh, wow! You wrote "33"! Did I already tell you about that, or are you some kind of a psychic??? 33 to you, too

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    3. You posted its significance during A - Z and I hoped and hoped to have a chance to send it back to you, again.

      As far as my psychic abilities, ahem ... ;)

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    4. Holy crap. I am duly impressed. (and honored)

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  10. Wow, this is really good, Susan! Powerful and gripping, it's filled with emotion and does a great job of reaching out to the reader.

    From a writing perspective, there's little to suggest. It flows well, has a consistent and strong voice, and has wonderful descriptive passages. The only thing I might suggest is change one of the "forget" in the beginning to maybe "ignore" to avoid the reuse in a short span. That and maybe reverse the order of the final lines to "...could be mine. Or yours." to finish with the thought that has the maximum impact to the reader.

    But other than that, this is excellent to go as it is, I think, and makes a great essay.

    And isn't it too bad that it has as much impact 30 years later instead of eliciting a response like, "the homeless? Oh yeah, I remember when that was a big problem, but thanks to [INSERT WONDERFUL SOLUTION HERE], that's all been taken care of these days."

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    1. Thanks. I agree with all your suggestions, but I didn't do any editing at all before posting it. Figured I'd just put it out there, warts and all. And you're right about the fact that thirty years doesn't seem to have improved their plight very much. Only positive thing is the battle against AIDS has come a long way.

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  11. Susan you are Spudtastic! Uplifting, encompassing, sweet (not sickly) a shout out for humanity :-)
    Send it to The Editor!

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    1. Woo HOO! Spud-tastic sounds GOOD! Thank you, ma'am. I yam smiling now.

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  12. I think this is incredibly beautiful and also important. It may be from the 80s but it's still the same old story, just as pertinent, just true now. People need to read this.

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  13. I've never worked with homeless people but I have worked with heroin addicts and this piece of writing reminded me of them. Sometimes, when I would try to write a story, one of them would leap out of the pages and I had to hide my little stories away for fear that they were more truth than fiction. I loved your piece. It is full to the brim with humanity and memorable characters.

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    1. Glad you liked it, and could relate. There's quite an overlap between addiction and homelessness.

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  14. A powerful story. I could see the people in front of me, I could smell them too, I could feel their pain, their bravery, their tenacity, their deep wish to survive.

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    1. Thank you, Inger. I'm glad you were able to picture these people in your mind's eye. The saddest ones are those whose survival instincts are fading, and they're on the verge of giving up.

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  15. Hi- It was nice to see your comment at H-bone. I like Suze's style. Although not really, a writer, I wanted to support her.
    We listen to a lot of Townes Van Zant. An incredible songwriter who flew under the radar. Had some bouts with abuse and homelessness himself. If you ever get a chance, give a listen to his song,"Marie". A riveting,sad song about a homeless couple.
    Your observations are brutally honest. Leaving me feeling both ashamed and grateful.

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    1. Not a writer, huh? Ya coulda fooled me. By the way, I love the look of your blog. First time I ever saw one set up like that. Very unique and snazzy. I'll make a point of looking for that song. Thanks.

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  16. Written in present tense by a keen observer, this piece actually took me there. Timeless, Susan.

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  17. Great writing, a very haunting piece.

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  18. An excellent piece to bring back, the message is one that needs to be told over and over, because people do seem to push these folks aside, kick them while they are down so to say, but yes these are all humans and should be treated as such.

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  19. Susan, this was well worth being released from the bottom of a drawer. Thanks for sharing it. Very touching....

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  20. Hi Susan, the thought of the day is really appropriate for what I am experiencing now. I've recently experience failure and in a depressing mode because of it. Reading the quote lift me up and inspires me. Thanks so much.
    truck loans

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    1. Hi. I'm glad the quote struck home for you. Hang in there.

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  21. Very strong piece. Your caring shines through. And it helps us to remember there are hurting souls behind the need. Thanks so much for sharing.

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    1. Thanks. I think there are plenty of hurting souls hiding behind high-dollar clothes and jewels, too. Their need just isn't as obvious.

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  22. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I love the thought of the day. We need to somehow fail and learn from it. I also think that we ought to genuinely share what we have instead of keeping it...:0)


    xx!

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    1. Hi. Thank you so much for stopping by to pay a visit. I do appreciate it, and will be stopping by your blog asap. I'm glad you liked the thought for the day. Without ever tasting failure, how can we possibly appreciate success?

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  23. Hi Susan - what an evocative piece of writing .. it's brilliant .. I hope you can use it somehow to awaken us all that we are all/they are all souls - we forget so often ... everyone deserves time in their life ... time to be ...

    Even the homeless - and it's not going to get any easier for so many .. a great Remembrance Day reminder too ... because so many are shell shocked and can't cope ..

    Thanks - great posting .. Hilary

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    1. Thanks, luv. Glad you liked it. And you're right about Remembrance Day. (Or Veteran's Day, as we call it here.) Far too many of our homeless men are also veterans. Shameful.

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  24. Very touching and visual. The visual creates those emotional pangs in your gut. The last sentence says it all. Well done...

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    1. Thank you. Coming from you, that really means a lot.

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  25. Hi Susan! I am back and have missed reading your blog. Your writing is fantastic! So moving...makes me tear up. I love your bleeding heart!

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    1. Hey, kiddo!!! So good to hear from you again. I'm glad you like my bleeding heart, 'cause it's the only one I've got. Welcome back!

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