Monday, January 10, 2011

16th and Island - Mayberry meets San Diego (Part Three)

I’ve read about street kids before, and even seen a few, but never on 16th and Island! They don’t belong here!
The mom and son were standing in front of  a new-looking red suburban parked on the curb – I noticed it was cleaner than our car. There were several homeless men camping nearby, including one man in a sleeping bag in front of the car. He had a small red dog that looked like a fox. The little boy, who was playing with the dog, looked as happy as any eight year old boy playing with a dog.
One of the youth group kids, Isaiah, offered them two paper bags with peanut butter sandwiches.
“Oh we like peanut butter, don’t we Jeb?,” she said. Her accent took me aback. It reminded me of a PBS documentary I had recently watched about Appalachian mining.
We introduced our little group.  “Hi, my name is Susan, and this here is my son Jeb,” she replied.
“Nice to meet you Jeb.” He grinned shyly back at us – his teeth were remarkably clean.
“Jeb, would you like some gloves? You look cold,” Alex’s mom Monica asked.
“Well, I sho’ would. Thank ya!” Jeb’s eyes lit up, as Monica took off her multi-colored cashmere gloves and handed them to him.
“Does he need anything else?” Monica asked.
Susan replied, “Well, he could sure use some britches. He’s a size eight.”
“My youngest is a size ten. He may have some pants that will fit Jeb,” Monica replied.
“Well, I sure would be obliged to ya” replied Susan.
“Pete, give them some extra water bottles,” I said.
Pete gave them two or three bottles. “No, more than that! The little boy needs to stay hydrated!” The man with the dog chuckled. “Why don’t you go get the gallon from the trunk, and the fleece Yoda blanket?” One of the kids I used to nanny, Connor, had given Pete a fleece blanket with Yoda on it. We kept it in the trunk for emergencies.
“This may seem like a crazy question, but are you from the Appalachians?” I asked Susan.
“Ap-pa-lay-sha! Shoo, No!  I am from the big city. I’m from Charlette, North Carolina. I am educated, not like those folk up in those mountains”. She sounded offended.
I  lied. “Well, I have family that comes from there – your accent sounded familiar”. My dad’s parents had grown up on farms in Tennessee, but I had no idea if they had qualified as “Appalachian”.
She appeared less bristled.  “So you know what it is like back South.”
“Yeah. So are you guys all together?” I asked, referring to the man laying in the sleeping bag.
“Oh no – this man here, Bob, he’s just stickin’ by us, for protection like, you see. You can’t imagine the harassment a woman and child can get bein’ out here.”
“It must be awful. So how long have you been in San Diego?”
            “About a month. I declare, you wouldn’t believe what we’ve done been  through since comin’ out here. A man, a really hoity-toity yuppy type, he comes by here the other day, and he says to me, real snob-like, ‘So you’re homeless are you?’ Well, I was raised  to take up for myself, and I says to him, ‘Yes, we are homeless, but it ain’t our fault. And it ain’t a lot of these people’s faults. Don’t you go judgin’ us all to be alcoholics or something!' Now I want you to know I don't have a drug problem or an alcohol problem. I was raised in a good Christian home.  I have a bad choice of men problem, but I've sure learned my lesson.” replied Susan.
“So what happened to you guys? ” I queried.
“Well we have had nothin’ but hard times since we come out here. First, the guy we come out here with, Austin, he goes and takes off with all my money. Then the car, it breaks down and I can’t get it fixed cause I got no money. And then, I’ve been fixin’ to get on Calworks so me and my boy can get food stamps, but the system out here, it moves as slow as molasses.”
            “So are you still with the man who stole from you?”
            “Are you kiddin’? He’s long gone – he’s down in Tijuana, doin’ God knows what.”
            “Well, I'm glad he is out of the picture anyways. Why don’t you talk to my friend Kimberly here? She works in social services – she may be able to help give you some tips about how to get your Calworks case working faster.”
            “Well I sure do appreciate it.” Kimberly gave her some numbers she could call, and told her to keep hounding the social workers until they gave her what she needed.
           Pete returned with the water and blanket. Susan remarked to Pete, "Thank ya - we sure are obliged. You look a lot like someone on the T.V. I can't think who - oh now I know - you look like John boy Walton!" 
         One of the college students, Shawn, was praying with a homeless man a few yards away. Another homeless man, who was lying down in a make-shift bed with a dirty pillow over his head, yelled, “Can’t you people see I am trying to sleep? I have to get up early, and you ­­____  ________ need to shut the ­­_____ up!”
            Susan yelled back, “ Stop that ruckus! Don’t you see these are good people? They are prayin’ for us! You have no right to yell at them like that, these be good Christian people!”
            Monica, visibly shaken with tears in her eyes, pleaded, “Can we please go? It’s freezing!”
            Pete nodded, “Yeah, let’s go.”
            “It was nice to meet you Susan, Jeb. We will be praying for you guys!” I said.
            That night I laid awake, thanking God for our warm bed and our one-bedroom flat which, as Pete described, seemed "like a mansion”.  We can't just pray for that Mom and little boy and leave them living in their car, while we live in comparative luxury!


  1. wow great story!


  2. Thanks sis :). When are you going to write?

  3. This is a real story right? I was pretty sure it was, then that accent made me start to wonder. You've got a great memory. I really do love how you are splitting up the story like you are. It keeps me coming back for more :)

  4. Yeah it is a real story - the accent is so sweet, right?!


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