A country that doesn’t care – can never be great.
For all the nationalistic bravado – the United States does a poor job of taking care of its own. Homelessness rates for women and children are a national disgrace.
Yet when we see a street-corner sign, or someone asking for help – our first instinct is to divert our gaze, and think they’d be better off with a job.
A buddy once taught me a valuable lesson about caring for people.
Andrew had just finished running house sound for a Willie Nelson gig at the Broken Spoke. He called and wanted to rendezvous at the old Kerbey Lane and catch up – best yet, he offered to treat.
As we pulled into the already-crowded parking lot – a thin young man approached, beginning the standard ‘stranded, homeless in truck, with family’ story.
Without a pause, Andrew reached in his jeans and handed the surprised man two twenty-dollar bills, reminding him to take good care of his family – they needed him.
As we walked inside, Andy saw my disbelief: ‘Sometimes, we all need a little help. That forty dollars didn’t hurt me – and it just might help him’.
Cowboy Queso and chips gave me time to silently reflect on how generous – or gullible Andy was. I deeply suspected he’d been taken.
Leaving, we spied the same young man pouring gas into a run-down pickup with his young wife and child inside. They looked tired and cold that late January night.
Andrew passed away several years ago – but I’ve never lost the lesson.
There’s a young man hanging out behind Los Comales these days. He sleeps behind a church down the street: does odd jobs for cash, and spends his days filling out job applications, ever-hopeful he can find work.
Whenever I run into him, we venture to H-E-B for toiletries or trail-mix.
He’s a smart guy, educated, with no family to help. He’s always polite and deeply appreciative. Most of all, he’s thankful that someone looks him in the eye.
‘Make America Great Again’ is catchy – but it misses the point.
We will never be a great nation until we open our minds, arms and hearts as Andrew taught me years ago in that cold parking lot at Kerbey. We must all do our part.
Only after America cares again, about everyone – can we aspire to be great.