According to news reports, good times are upon us. The stock market sets record highs almost daily, unemployment is under 5 percent, and as was promised by Republicans during the 1928 presidential campaign, there is a chicken in every pot and a car in almost every garage, with two or three in some.
So what was this fellow doing on the offramp at Glenwood Avenue near Crabtree Valley Mall and the Beltline asking for handouts?
I had only a few seconds for an interview before the light changed. I learned he was from Rocky Mount, had lost his job and was plying one of the oldest of all trades: begging.
At least he was honest. He was not wearing the customary “Willing to work” sign on his chest.
There wasn’t time to ask him what had brought him to the point in life that he, in effect, was dependent on the kindness of strangers, or purported to be.
Before the light changed, I did have time to ask how much income he realized from his solicitations.
“About $60 a day if I stay here all day,” he said with a murmured “Thanks” as the stoplight changed and we moved on.
Some years ago, on my way to lunch from The Raleigh Times office, I encountered another down-and-outer sitting on the ledge of a flower bed.
I emptied my pockets of change, sat down beside him and began asking him questions for a possible column.
After counting the change, the fellow turned on me angrily and said, “Look, mister. If you think I’m going to give you my life story for 85 cents, you’re crazy!”
The encounter with the man at the offramp can remind us all that although happy days are here again economically for Raleigh, not everybody benefits from the prosperity.
There’s always a critic
When my wife chided me recently for using “like” instead of “as” while quoting a Shakespeare line about mercy being as gentle as the falling rain, I told her I’d give her $50 for every reader who caught the error.
I had forgotten about Dr. Assad Meymandi, Raleigh philanthropist and the most intelligent man I’ve ever known. He wrote:
“It might be useful for Mrs. Snow to know that I caught the error in the Shakespeare line. However, my mother’s inculcation of the ancient Persian protocol ‘You don’t ever correct your elders’ prevented me from bringing it to your attention. Give my $50 to Mrs. Snow’s favorite charity. Mine is The Salvation Army.”
Since sending $50 to Dr. Meymandi would be like sending coal to New Castle, I’m sending it to the Salvation Army.
Rainy day reminiscing
During our rainless periods this summer, I kept thinking of this truism someone shared with me:
“During the drought, all the villagers decided to pray for rain. On the day of prayer, all the people gathered. But only one person, a little boy, came with an umbrella.”
Now that’s true faith.
Speaking of rain, one of the luxuries missing from today’s culture is the pure pleasure of sleeping under a tin roof.
The big farmhouse in which I grew up had a tin roof. There was no sweeter lullaby than the steady drumming of rain on the tin roof above our upstairs bedrooms. An even more exotic treat would be to burrow deep into a mountain of hay in the tin-roofed barn loft and drift off to sleep hoping the rain would be heavy enough to prevent us from going into the muddy fields to work the next day.
In so many cases today, sleeping pills have replaced rain on a tin roof as a curative for insomnia.
Food for thought
Not since the Cuban missile crisis have I felt the rising sense of fear and anxiety as I have during the five-alarm confrontation with North Korea, which has achieved long-range atomic missile capability.
It seems significant that I have come across a “food for thought” item (author unknown) from friends Fred and Carolyn Morrison:
“It will be a great day when the schools have all the money they need and the Air Force has to hold a bake sale to buy a bomber.”