“Sean, when are you going to say something about America and the pitiful state we’re in…? A lot of people are speaking out… Have you heard the song “Rich Men North of Richmond”? It’s about American oppression… But you have remained silent and are thus part of the problem.
“…The longer you turn a blind eye to our national troubles, the more respect I lose for you. When are you going to call out what’s wrong with this country?
Dear Jan, I’d like to tell you about a scene I saw about four years ago.
I was at a Piggly Wiggly in a no-name U.S. Southeastern state. I was traveling on business. I was almost to my hotel when I stopped to buy some Chili Cheese Fritos and, God willing, a six-pack.
As I was wheeling into the store parking lot, I noticed a young woman and her two kids standing on the corner. They were begging.
I have a policy. I give to people who beg. Not because I am a good guy. I’m not. I am a selfish American who spends more money on streaming video services than I do helping the needy.
But I once had a cousin who was addicted to meth. This cousin commonly resorted to panhandling on street corners.
My cousin once told me the amount of cars that passed by when he begged was staggering. He once said, “You never feel more invisible than you do when you’re on that street corner holding that stupid sign.”
This mother was holding a cardboard sign. She had scabs all over her face and arms. I don’t know much, I know what the scabs are all about.
The sign read, “My kids are hungry.”
The woman’s kids were standing directly beside her. And she was dressed in rags. I parked in the parking lot and I watched her for a while.
Finally, I bit the bullet and walked over to her. But I wasn’t the first. There was an old man who beat me there. The old man said he was with a local church. He was offering the woman a place to stay. No strings attached.
The woman began to cry. She told him she was in an abusive relationship. She admitted to the man that she was a drug user and she wanted help, but she didn’t know how to get it because her boyfriend wouldn’t let her leave.
The woman said she just wanted to feed her kids. And she also admitted that she was afraid of going through withdrawals, because she was addicted to meth.
Do you know what happened next? The old man got on his phone. He called people. Within minutes several strangers were standing on the street corner. One person brought sandwiches from Firehouse Subs. Another brought Gatorades.
There were others who arrived from a local homeless shelter. They were offering her a place to stay. Offering her safety from her abusive relationship. They were offering her a way out.
The woman was frightened, you could see it on her gaunt, scabbed-over face. But do you know what she did?
She got into the car with a bunch of strangers, with her kids, and she decided to give rehab a shot. I will never forget watching her step into that Subaru. And I will never forget seeing those kids wolf down those subs in the backseat. I will never forget the tears she shed. Neither will I forget mine.
Two years later, I got an email from a man at the shelter where she ended up.
The man said she died at age 49. And she died sober. And during her last few years of life, she had helped approximately 32 young, addicted mothers leave abusive relationships.
She helped one young woman with AIDS pass peacefully. She helped other people’s children find stable homes. She helped people get off methamphetamines.
I am not a smart man. I know nothing, admittedly, about how to save this country. But do you know what I keep thinking about?
I keep thinking about the thousands of cars that passed that woman by. I keep thinking about all the cars that daily pass all the young mothers in America, and young addicts, and homeless persons, and veterans, and alcoholics.
And I can’t help but wonder if these aren’t the same cars with motorists that love to get on social media to talk about what’s wrong with this country.