There’s a man who walks through my town seemingly oblivious to traffic or anything else for that matter. He could easily pass as an
extra on the set of the television show The Walking Dead (minus the blood). He appears to wear the same clothes each time I see him – pink t-shirt and khaki
shorts. He is Caucasian, middle aged, gray hair, short in stature, deeply tanned from constant outdoor exposure, with a blank stare. It seems as if I’m filling
out a police or missing persons report. And to most bystanders and casual observers, he would largely go unnoticed. But as a writer and commentator of the human
condition, I would like to think I pick up on certain traits and behaviors better than most. Throw in some actor training that involves the observation of physical tics
and trying to fathom what makes people tic then what I have witnessed makes interesting fodder for a column or a movie character.
And while I noticed this guy was “different”, what I didn’t notice until about the third time I came across him was that he was
carrying an empty prescription pill bottle in his hand. Just take a moment to picture that in your mind as you drink your morning espresso…a walking metaphor for
whatever ails you. Here’s a guy who could be on the cover of Time or some medical journal. And you might ask at this point if there was something I could
do for this guy. Am I my brother’s keeper? I would like to be, but something tells me I would be of little help at all. Could I lead him to safety?
And if so where would that be? Safely across the street or safely to the nearest mental health facility or safely back home if he even has a home. And thus a new set
of problems arise. This is a man who has definitely fallen through the cracks. Our social service/mental health network has not been able to reach this obviously
troubled man. I haven't seen him lately which makes me wonder if he was just an aberration from the norm or an apparition.
Another incident I will relate involves a conversation between a grandmother and granddaughter I overheard while waiting for my son to be
dismissed from school. It is no less troubling than the previous situation I encountered. It seems the grandmother would be walking to the nearest grocery store to
retrieve some unsweetened Koolaid. I'm thinking do they even make that anymore? I thought everything was sweetened these days. But the real treat for the
grandkids (it appears that the grandmother was the primary caretaker) was the acquiring of a microwave . The mention of this good fortune generated high fives. The
meal for the night was microwave tv dinners with ... unsweetened Koolaid. Growing up as a child of the working poor, I can tell you the joys of unsweetened drinks and the
horrors of potted meat. I got the impression that this was somewhat better than their usual fare. My heart went out to them at this point. My first reaction was
to empty out my wallet and buy these folks a meal. But carrying no cash, this wasn't an option and also realizing it would be only a very temporary fix for a chronic
problem. But this duo did not project an aura of misery. They seemed quite happy. Their austerity also showed in their manner of dress. The grandma was
wearing a plain cotton dress. The granddaughter wearing the plainest of school uniforms, carrying a nondescript backpack and shodded with generic athletic shoes. And
this is an age where children are often made fun of if they don't wear the latest and most fashionable Nikes, Adidas, Skechers, etc. While no one should tell these
good people what to eat and what to wear, they should at least have the information available regarding healthier nutritional options. We live in an information age, but
the people who could utilize it the most are not being reached. Again, these people have fallen between the cracks. Have they heard about the SNAP (Supplemental
Nutritional Information Program), their local food bank, their local farmers market, the World Hunger Relief organization, which is headquartered in their backyard, hints
and helps how to grow their own produce in a community garden...have they heard? I don't think we need another big government agency to help facilitate the needs of
these people. Perhaps we just need a foundation financed by private and corporate donors to get the word out. Let's call the foundation The People Who Fall
Between The Cracks.
As I take this all in, while cruising around in my 1987 Nissan Sentra I'm listening to my favorite automotive show on the radio. The
caller is asking the host on his opinion about which luxury car is quieter - the latest Lexus model or the current BMW . For those interested, it seems that the BMW is
quieter by a few decibels. It's nice to get to that point in your life when that's your primary concern. But that stands in stark contrast to the worries of
people living on the margins of our society. And perhaps my solutions are no better than anyone else's. All I can really offer is a primal scream.