Albuquerque, New Mexico (where I live), is a one-horse town of about 500,000 population...including the horse. Albuquerque has lost some of the biggest employers in the country including; General Electric; AOL (over 1,000 employees; Martin-Marietta; Motorola; Trend Technologies; Phillips Semi-Conductors; Digital; Seimens; Penny's Call Center;
I will just provide a summary for the reader, because I have written extensively in other articles, etc.
- Over a little more than a decade, I have been laid off from six jobs, with my first layoff coming when I was age 48.
- The following decade, was the worst in my life, as it was a never-ending roller-coaster ride of working as a temporary employment; and other job losses.
- My biggest surprise during all this time, and something I never anticipated was ageism...or discrimation against older workers, and, I believe it eventually led to my downfall.
- I could never imagine, that I would be visited by the sheriff's department, to pay for credit card debt, but it happened, as two officers came to my apartment to look for things to confiscate.
- During this awful time in my life, I was evicted twice, and both times I faced the same judge. There was no compassion during this time by anyone...just get out!
- It got so bad for me, that I didn't even have money for gas to put in the car, etc. I didn't even have money to buy a newspaper to look at the want ads. I didn't have enough bus money, to go across town. When I had to go to court on one of the evictions...I walked over seven miles and it took me over an hour...to go get evicted!
- Things got so bad for me, that this was the first time in my life, I had gone hungry. Now, I knew what the people who go hungry feel like.
- A person can only life so long on a credit card...and when that ran out...I knew that I was in trouble. I wrote two bad checks, that I knew would bounce...to get something to eat!
- My phone was disconnected, and I got a summons from the court to appear, for my second eviction.
- If that wasn't bad enough...the worst of the worst happened to me, as I was taken by ambulance to the VA hospital, where I would spend the next 3 1/2 months. During this time, I lost all my possessions, and I had only 26 cents in my pocket and the clothes on my back. This was in 2005 during Katrina, and now I knew for the first time, how the victims of Katrina felt to lose all their possessions.
- Because I only had the clothes on my back, and I lost everything, I had to go to the VA thrift shop to get some clothes. This is the first time in my life, I would wear somebody else's clothes.
- After more than three months in the hospital, I was discharged, and headed to a homeless shelter. There was no other way at the time...
- One of the most difficult decisions during my entire life, and now at the age of 60, was to call the homeless shelter and reserve a bed. I didn't have the courage to do so, and I slept in the car the night I was discharged from the hospital. This was about October in 2005, so it was getting a little nippy outside, and so the following night, I got the courage to call the shelter.
- Never, in my wildest dreams, that I would ever stand in a soup line...but, if I wanted something to eat, I would do what the rest of the homeless people do...stand in a soup line.
- I stayed in the homeless shelter for over two months, and stood in a soup line for that amount of time as well. All the time, that I lived in the homeless shelter, and stood in the soup line...there was one thought that kept crossing my mind. That is, I was so grateful, that I had a roof over my head...and a meal on the table!
- During this awful time in my life...call it a silver-lining or whatever...a pension check arrived in the mail, as the VA declared me disabled and Social Security followed.
- I then got a room out in the community, and eventually, started re-building my life.
When I first went to the shelter, the thing I thought about the most was fear! I was afraid to go to this place! I thought I would never come out alive, etc. I was living with 50-60 others men, and I don't think I slept a wink that first night.
I was wrong! During the over two months I was there, I didn't see any violence; no arguments; no threats, etc. I think everyone was just trying the best to handle the situation, and find the answers as to why we were all there in the first place.
Obviously, I was anxious to leave this place, and get a place of my own. As I lood back, I will always be grateful to the people who do this kind of work. With that in mind, I wanted to show the reader an email I received recently.
After I was released, and after I got on my feet a little, I would make donations (and still do in 2011) because I have been so thankful to the people there. Over the next several years, I got their newsletter and electronic newsletters, and I've donated several times.
The following, is a email I got in November, 2011, and it shows the behind-the-scenes look at what the people were like at the homeless shelter. This is a letter from the Executive Director, announcing that one of the staff members is retiring, and the email reads as follows;
Michael Wisher opened the doors for Metropolitian Homelessness Project. Now, he leaves a legacy.
As you know from the last two years worth of letters, Michael has been our development director. As such, he cultivated new support, increased individual and corporate donations, and coordinated numerous new opportunities for MHP's financial stability. Michael did all of this, despite extremely challenging economic times.
There are four components, that keep MHP financially afloat, and able to serve the people we work with everyday.
- My board of directors, who are generous with all their contacts and have 100% personal financial participation.
- My diligent staff, who save expenses at every corner possible.
- YOU...who believe in our mission, and make the work actually possible, and...
- Michael, who has helped me coordinate all of the above.
Sadly, this letter is to announce Michael's retirement. After excelling in three distincted careers, he has decided that it might be time to focus a little on himself, his wonderful wife Judith, and their life together.
Well deserved, Michael.
We have immensely enjoyed Michail's presence on our team. He raised our public image and visability to a new level of professionalism. He connected the needs of the people we serve to resources that change lines. Michael's own passion for issues of housing and homelessness, and his personal committment to positively impacting the neediest of our neighbors, guided his time with MHP.
On a personal level, I appreciate that Michael was not only accomplished at his work, but that he always brought a smile to our work and was quick with a laugh and a listening ear.
Michael will be missed. But, as I mentioned, he is leaving a legacyk...the Wilsher Endowment for Metropolitian Homelessness Project. I will let him share this exciting news in his own letter. I hope you will honor Michael's great work by contributing to this important endowment. To do so electronically, visit www.mhp.nm.org and click the 'give' button on our home page.
Our focused intention of MHP is to make the experience of homelessness short-lived, infrequent, and short-lived, and non-recurring. We appreciate your on-going partnership. Thank you very much.
Dennis Plummer, Executive Director "
END OF EMAIL;
The reader will remember when I said that I wrote two bad checks, because I was hungry. When I got on my feet a little, I paid those companies back. It's amazing what people will do when they're hungry!
In 2011, I now live on Social Security and a small pension, and I have little wiggle-room. But, I donate to the shelter when I can, because I will always be grateful to people like this, who help the unfortunate.
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Copyright; 2011; Jerry Aragon; The Humor Doctor;
Website name; humordoctormd