Quixote's EpistleThese are the main articles from our quarterly epistle.
A man can, as John Steinbeck said, live a gray life. It can be lonely, full of so-called failure. He may be penniless, addicted, unable or unwilling to hold an ordinary job. He may sleep in a tent in the forest, hang around the square or Whiskey Row, shave and shower only when he’s able. He may feel his life passing him by and look back mostly upon regrets and hurts. He may blame everyone but himself.
As Linda explains about Willy Lowman in Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman, “I don’t say he’s a great man. [He] never made a lot of money. His name was never in the paper…But he’s a human being…so attention must be paid… Attention, attention must be finally paid to such a person.”
Willy Lowman is all of us. He is the corporate CEO, the carpenter building the house, the mother home with her children, the clerk behind the counter, the cop in the cruiser, the criminal behind bars, the waitress in the restaurant, the pastor behind the pulpit. He is every person who walks through the door of Quixote’s Garage.
Our society is designed to keep us isolated. A sense of community is discouraged. In school we learn to compete, not cooperate; to be better than the other guy, not help the other guy be all he can be. Our isolation is so much a part of our lives that we think it’s normal.
The Catholic Worker movement offers another example. Community is not only possible and desirable; it’s a great way to live. We can work together for peace, for social change, for a new society. Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin wanted to create a society in which it is easier to be good. And I would add that we must create a society in which it is easier to be together—with each other and with the rest of creation. We are revolutionaries.
Dorothy Day said, “The greatest challenge of the day is: How to bring about a revolution of the heart; a revolution which has to start with each one of us.”
So when someone walks through the door of Quixote’s Garage, attention is paid to that person. Our guests know that someone else is aware that they exist; that they are human beings, an essential part of God’s creation.
This is our revolutionary, our radical act of compassion. It is our resistance to a society based on isolation that can lead only to fear, that in turn leads to violence, destruction and war. We are out to change the world by changing ourselves and each other one heart at a time.
Doug Finn, Co-founder of the Garage, beloved husband to Kris
Doug passed away in 2005
The world would be better off
if people tried to become better.
And people would become better
if they stopped trying to become
For when everybody tries to become
nobody is better off.
But when everybody tries to become
everybody is better off.
Everybody would be rich
if nobody tried to become richer.
And nobody would be poor
if everybody tried to be the poorest.
And everybody would be what he
ought to be
if everybody tried to be
what he wants the other fellow to be.
Everywhere, people wearing nice clothes are driving new cars and great big monster trucks, hurrying home to nice houses where they will play with their tablets, laptops, video games, and cell phones.
Also everywhere, there are poor people, some of them living on the street. Poverty is not a new problem, it is a growing problem. People are losing their jobs and homes at an alarming rate and new jobs are harder to find. And if you have felonies or bad credit you cannot pass a background check.
Being poor chisels at your pride until one day you wake up and hate yourself and hate life so much that suicide seems like the only way out. Depression and despair have left you with no hope. Some people turn to drugs and alcohol, maybe because at this point they figure, “What do I have to lose?” When the drugs and alcohol wear off they are broke and the problems are still there. They feel guilt and shame; things have gone from bad to worse.
Being poor presents problems like worrying where to sleep at night, and some laws make being homeless criminal. Small towns pass ordinances to make sleeping in town a crime. “Urban camping” it is called. Police find and ticket the person so the person flees the state. Or the person is arrested and put in jail where they lose whatever possessions they had, such as a blanket, or change of clothes, or even a car. Then they are fined a huge amount they cannot pay or put on probation so they cannot leave town. Now where do they sleep?
To move into a place, you need first and last month’s rent, security deposit, and utility deposits. This adds up to a hefty chunk of change that seems impossible to get. There are shelters and some “halfway houses” out there, but beware if these places are infested with bedbugs. Some are run by people who are momentarily clean and sober and believe since they have “fixed” their own life they are qualified to fix yours as well. Sooner or later you realize you can’t stay in the loony bin anymore. This brings you full circle back to the streets. A fugitive from society. Like a penguin in the forest. Never fitting in and no place to go.
Labor halls are only a temporary fix, enough money to get a meal and wash your clothes. Begging or panhandling is an option, but you have to set aside your pride and self worth. Some people quit even looking for work. They walk around town to get the free meals and ask strangers for cigarettes and money. Before you know it they are hanging around the park with drunks and addicts and well on their way to becoming one, too. This sets them up to be attacked or robbed.
Loneliness is a big part of poverty because, let’s face it, who wants to hang around with a person who smells like dirty socks, has no money, and complains all day about how miserable they are and how bad it is for them. It has some of the characteristics of a terminal disease. It seems there are no answers to fix things and life has become a cruel and harsh life sentence. Some pray not to wake up tomorrow. God is hope to those who believe, but some have prayed so long that they simply give up.
People become poor for a lot of reasons: sickness, hospital bills, flood, fire, death, divorce, a broken-down vehicle, and even old age. Whatever the reason, poverty sucks! It’s humbling and can be very hard to come back from. It is everywhere, and there is always someone worse off than you are. Living in poverty is not fun, so if you think someone needs help, you can make a difference. Don’t be scared to lend a hand.