Knock Knock, Are You Still Alive?
When I read the story that stimulated this response, my first thought was of a joke I often tell my friends that if I were found floating in a river, people would just walk by and say nothing. Or if they did notice, they would say, “Oh, that poor woman, I think she may be dead.’’ They would watch my body float by as they continued with their walk. The story I am referring to was about an eight year old boy who lived with his mother’s dead body for almost ten days before a store owner became suspicious that she may have been ill or even dead. This individual only wondered about the whereabouts of the boy’s mother due to the fact that the boy was trying to use his mother’s credit cards to buy an odd assortment of groceries. Since the story tugged so deeply on my heart strings, I continued to read and learned that the two of them were Hurricane Katrina survivors. It was further noted that the mother lived alone with her son in the apartment with no family in the city due to the fact that her husband had recently passed away.
Does the fact that she was a single mother or Hurricane Katrina survivor make it right for no one to have noticed that the boy may have been alone in the apartment? I even wondered if maybe her body might have begun to smell and how no one in a probably enclosed apartment building noticed the smell and complained about the stench? People are quick to complain, seldom will they reach a hand out to help.
I found myself staring into space realizing that could have been me, my neighbor or the little lady that lives alone in the next building. But especially myself as I am a Hurricane Katrina survivor with a child, no spouse, health problems and no family in the city that I fled to after the storm. I, too, could have had a heart attack in my kitchen chair and my daughter so afraid of being alone in the world that she would choose to live with me until she almost starved to death herself. And, I also understood why the boy would continuously tell the store owner and officials that his mother was in a better place. He saw her as now being in peace. How hard had their lives become since they lost their home and his father after Hurricane Katrina? And, yes, this could happen to you. Yes, this could happen in your city, town or neighborhood. When was the last time you saw your neighbor? Do you even know that person’s name?
As Americans we need to stop watching to see who is white or black. We need to see that we are all alive. That slight gesture could surprise you; the people you notice may in turn care if you ever need a helping hand. I see you. You are shrugging your shoulders and chuckling at the words in this article when suddenly you realize that you have not heard a sound coming from the other rooms in your house or apartment building. How many of your neighbors are starving to death or losing their homes because someone did not feel that they were worth checking on or hiring? Or, is it you that is dead? That is right, being jobless, homeless, and dead can happen to anyone, anytime. The Hurricane Katrina survivors learned that lesson the hard way. That is why when my neighbor, a hard working single woman with a child told me that she was soon to be on the streets, I cried for her. Never did it cross my mind to call her white trash as people have done to me since I was from the so-called poor city of New Orleans. I have been treated as if my daughter and I deserve to be starving and homeless because we came from New Orleans. Did that little boy deserve to see his mother die in front of him and leave him homeless at such a young age of 8? And, I cry as I feel the beauty of the boy’s untainted heart, he would only say that his mother was now in a better place.
If you think that you are never going to die, have your money locked away from you because of a disaster, lose your job or experience any number of the many horrible things that happen to humans, you better look around and be grateful that you are already dead. The living are losing jobs and homes. More importantly, individuals are starving to death. If you are an official, or simply a member of a community, and can feel this article, it is time for you to help your neighbor so that the two of you can co-exist in living quarters and not the cold harsh streets. Yes, the terror of what possibly killed the boy’s mother is truly what provoked me to write this article. If you were alone, with a child dependent on you, and all the hope that you ever knew being stripped from you by the government, do you think that maybe even you might have a heart attack as a result of the worry and fear? And, would those that did know what you had been going through think that your death sent you to a better place? Is it humane for the government to be ignoring a person with poor health, a spouse who recently died, no home and no job, showing the bleak future of the cold icy streets as the individual's new home?
If we do not face the fact that disasters can happen to anyone, no matter who we are, our streets are going to become extremely crowded with homes and grocery stores becoming less and less crowded. We all need a place to live, food to eat and companionship. And, our government officials, reporters and anyone that can make a difference should stop hiding from the truth, speak up and help before we all find ourselves with no food to eat and living in the streets. It can happen. And, yes, even to those who live in the White House!
January 22, 2009
P.O. Box 25221
Tamarac, Fl 33320-5221