For most of the population, cold weather is setting in. Here in Nashville, the temperature recently dropped from 70 degrees to 20 degrees in less than a week. I hate cold weather. “Back in the day” when I was a teenager, I spent the better part of a year homeless, including part of a winter in Detroit. I HATE the cold with a passion. Consequently, whenever nasty weather arrives, I can’t help but feel a particular empathy for those who are trying to survive on the street. It’s hard enough when you’re homeless in pleasant conditions. When it’s frigid, windy, wet and dark, it’s almost impossible.
Since retirement, I’ve had the opportunity to volunteer at a couple of non-profits, including The Contributor, an award winning newspaper sold with dignity by our neighbors climbing out of homelessness. It’s been great to have a regular connection with their Vendors, many of whom have been able to eke out a living and even afford housing. Each has their own story and their own style. I also keep a stash of dollars and sometimes CarePaks in my Jeep to give to the homeless I encounter.
A regular at the highway exit nearest our home is Jimmy G. Over the last couple of months, I’ve gotten to know him a bit. His poignant sign became indelibly etched into my memory. In the wake of the Covid challenges, political controversy, gratuitous entitlement, economic upheaval…his simple message rang so true. “Anything is a Blessing”.
Anything…indeed everything IS a blessing. We are not entitled to the many blessings we bask in and so easily take for granted. His sign reminds me personally not only of where I came from, but also of the abundance I enjoy on a daily basis.
A little about Jimmy G: He’s been homeless since April of this year, enduring his first winter on the streets. Jimmy used to work as an electrician, had a comfortable home, and drove a late model Ford. Then he lost his job, his car died, and he ended up without a place to live. His new residence now consists of a tent hidden in the trees and underbrush near the exit.
I asked Jimmy what he thinks most people don’t understand about being homeless. He remarked that many folks think the answer is to just get a job. Many motorists have shouted exactly that as they have passed by: “Just get a job, loser!”
Jimmy is willing and wanting to work, either as an electrician, or at odd jobs that come his way. In fact, he mentions that the Cracker Barrel 100 yards from his exit is hiring. However, without even a place to take a shower or change into suitable and clean clothing, and without an address to report on an employment application, his options are limited.
At this point, Jimmy is hoping that when the Covid crisis gets resolved, he will be able to return to his chosen profession and rebuild his life. Until then, he waits faithfully at exit 219 in hopes of earning his daily bread.
Would you help Jimmy survive this difficult winter? Please consider sending him a cash gift this holiday season via Venmo @Jimmy-Gravitt-1