Thursday, April 10, 2014


My theme for A to Z this year is a wildly different, but very exciting, HERE'S TO YOU all month long. 26 posts to be precise. The most difficult part was narrowing down the 26. All of you deserve your own post. What you will find here is a post by the featured blogger, with traveling music chosen by me that complements said post, and two links. One will link back to the original post and the other to the main page. This year's A to Z is all about making new friends!

I Think; Therefore, I Yam, written by Susan Flett Swiderski, touches on a variety of topics. As in a plethora. Yeah, what I am trying to say is that Susan is a font of knowledge. Anyone who reads her blog gets to share in this overflowing pot of knowledge. For example, we have toured the United States on her blog, seen the sites, read the history, and learned what laws will get you thrown in the clink (in each and every state).

Cue the traveling music:

The Face of Christmas by Susan Flett Swiderski

Thought for the day:  People who are homeless are not social inadequates. They are people without homes.  [Sheila McKechnie]

 You can't see my face, but I still have one.
Are there any homeless people in your town? Do you ever pass them when you're walking down the street? Maybe see them sleeping on a park bench or under a slab of cardboard? Do you... see them? I mean, really see them?

Most people don't, you know. Most don't look at their faces, and don't think of them as real people. As individuals. It's much easier to dismiss them as a faceless and nameless group of... what? Unfortunates?

A castaway in the sea was going down for the third time when he caught sight of a passing ship. Gathering his last strength, he waved frantically and called for help. Someone on board peered at him scornfully and shouted back, "Get a boat!" [Daniel Quinn]

Is that the kind of disdain society shows the homeless? I'm ashamed to say it, but all too often, it is.

Last month, a homeless man who's been wandering the streets of Atlanta since March was featured in the newspaper. His story started with him doing what he does every day... digging through dumpsters for something to eat.

Well, he found a wallet in one of the dumpsters. A Frenchwoman's wallet... and it contained her ID and credit card. This homeless man... this man named Joel... was determined to make it right for that tourist, so he walked from hotel to hotel, until he found where she was staying. At the luxurious Omni hotel, he turned the wallet over to the desk clerk. When the clerk asked for his name, Joel gave him a fake name. What difference did it make? He was... nobody.

But he wasn't nobody to the hotel manager. Based on Joel's picture taken by the security camera, people hit the streets until they found him... and brought him back to the hotel. There, he was given five hundred dollars and a week's stay, complete with free room service and a traditional Thanksgiving dinner.

Joel was much appreciative of the shower and bed. He also received new clothes, a haircut, and new-found dignity. He also got a lot of publicity. Other people sent money and gifts to him, and he got several job offers. He was the homeless man who'd done the right thing. He was the homeless man with a background story... the homeless man with a face. With a name...

And a family, a family that had been trying to find him for the past decade. His deceased father's long-time girlfriend and two half-brothers flew to Atlanta to reunite with him. They all had Thanksgiving dinner together. Then the family left. Went back home to their lives.

Joel's story certainly doesn't end there, but that's the end of the newspaper coverage. What happened to him when he left that luxury hotel? Did he go to Alaska, like he said he wanted to do? Did he get the medical and mental help he needed? Will he be able to hold a job this time? Can he get back on his feet... and stay there? Will he ever see his family again?

Joel's short time in the limelight brings up a lot of questions. Like, what does it say about decent society that it can be so insultingly surprised that a homeless man did the right thing? After all, no matter what his current circumstances, how can we justify jumping to the automatic assumption that he isn't a kind and caring soul, and a decent man with concern for other people?

I mean, I don't think I'm alone when I look at the homeless person or the psychotic or the drunk or the drug addict and see their baby pictures in my mind's eye. You don't think they were cute like every other baby? [Dustin Hoffman]

Hungry not only for bread — but hungry for love. Naked not only for clothing — but naked for human dignity and respect. Homeless not only for want of a room of bricks — but homeless because of rejection.  [Mother Teresa]

 I also can't help but wonder if this time of year... this glorious time of Thanksgiving, Hannukah, Christmas, and joy to the world isn't the real reason Joel got the royal treatment for a week. Do you think he would have been treated so well in the middle of  July or August?

Have you ever wished people were as loving and caring year-round as they are during this time of year? Wondered why the smiles and laughter aren't as heartfelt, and the hugs as warm, in March as they are in December? Why you don't get a mountain of wrapped presents every day, instead of just one measly time a year? (Only kidding about that one. Just checking to see if you were paying attention.) Anyway, Christmas is fast approaching. Anticipation builds, and as we all prepare to celebrate, I'd like to share an excerpt from Keeping Christmas, written by Henry Van Dyke:
There is a better thing than the observance of Christmas day, and that is, keeping Christmas.

Are you willing to forget what you have done for other people, and to remember what other people have done for you; to ignore what the world owes you, and to think what you owe the world; to put your rights in the background, and your duties in the middle distance, and your chances to do a little more than your duty in the foreground; to see that men and women are just as real as you are, and try to look behind their faces to their hearts, hungry for joy; to own up to the fact that probably the only good reason for your existence is not what you are going to get out of life, but what you are going to give to life; to close your book of complaints against the management of the universe, and look around you for a place where you can sow a few seeds of happiness.

Are you willing to stoop down and consider the needs and desires of little children; to remember the weakness and loneliness of people growing old; to stop asking how much your friends love you, and ask yourself whether you love them enough; to bear in mind the things that other people have to bear in their hearts; to try to understand what those who live in the same home with you really want, without waiting for them to tell you; to trim your lamp so that it will give more light and less smoke, and to carry it in front of you so that your shadow will fall behind you; to make a grave for your ugly thoughts, and a garden for your kindly feelings, with the gate open---

Are you willing to do these things, even for a day? Then you can keep Christmas. And if you can keep it for a day, why not always?

                                        Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

If you light a lamp for someone, it will also brighten your path.  [Buddhist saying]
This post, like so many of Susan's posts, touched my heart. Why can't we keep Christmas for always? 


  1. Susan! Good choice.
    Sadly, I think we are surprised when anyone does the right thing. We shouldn't, because that's just what people should do, but it's become a rarity.

  2. Great post by Susan. The excerpt from VanDyke reminds me of Dickens-Scrooge telling the Spirit of Christmas yet to come that he will keep Christmas in his heart all the year.

    Certainly something we should all strive to do.

  3. Loved this post. I am always touched by the character Mary in the home alone movie. It is sad that there are so many homeless people and it is heartwarming to here about people who make a difference by helping.

  4. Susan is so wonderful, and such a talented writer! She's someone who makes you think regardless of the subject of her post! Beautiful tribute and none better deserved!

  5. There was a homeless old lady in Neverwhere by Neil Gaimon, too. Susan expressed this so well. And, to answer your question, no, I don't think a homeless person would have received such treatment at any time other than Christmas.
    Also, when a riot disturbed the equanimity of our town after a loss of a hockey game, it was the privileged kids of upper middle class families causing the destruction, not the homeless setting fires to cars, but college kids. An eye-opener to their parents.

  6. Great selection from Susan. Such an important message. What a great world if that Christmas spirit was an everyday thing.

    A Faraway View
    An A to Z Co-host blog

  7. amazing and intense post for i day. i definitely wonder about the backstories of homeless people. how did they get to this point? i have thought many times about taking a camera person to the streets to do some interviews... if only i had the time and money to do all i'd like to do...
    i appreciate you bringing them some recognition.
    and thanks for all the visits and great comments!

  8. A great post by a great blogger. Of course, you are too, Robin :)

  9. Susan is a great heart, and this post shows it. When I was six years old, my alcoholic father, to punish my mother for divorcing him, abandoned me on the worst street in Detroit. I wandered lost and fearful there for 6 weeks.

    A homeless woman, Maude, looked out for me. She and her little dog, Tufts, saved me from a terrible time. She overcame her fear of uniforms and took me to the Salvation Army when I became ill with pneumonia. She saved my life. I put her and her little dogs Tufts in FRENCH QUARTER NOCTURNE as my way of saying thanks to a gentle, loving soul.

    Robin, you have another fine post. :-)

  10. I remember that post. And I love Susan's blog. :)

  11. Alex ~ In some ways I think that the news perpetuates this feeling. The bad stuff is what brings ratings. So, that is what they show. But, it pervades our psyche. We tend to think that everyone is like this... and that isn't so. Most people are good. We just get inundated with the bad.

    Tim ~ We should all strive for it. Habits are learned. I think maybe - just maybe - if we start small and work on making that one little thing part of our daily life, when it becomes natural... it is now part of us. And then we can add another little thing. And so on and so forth.

    Siv ~ It is sad that there are so many homeless. Most of them are mentally ill or sick in some other way. Many are vets who suffer from PTSD. We could and should be doing more.

    Yolanda ~ I agree.

    D.G. ~ I bet that was an eye opener. Homeless folks often have impeccable manners and are very gentle souls. They weren't always homeless. I bet that incident was eye-opening and brain-closing at the same time. What parent wants to believe that their baby would behave that way???

    Arlee ~ Talk about Hope and Change! Yeah, if we all treated each day with Christmas spirit...

    Tara ~ Every person has a story. And that includes the homeless.

    Mark ~ Ah well, shucks. This has been fun. Just wish that there were more letters in the alphabet. I might have to do this again next year!!!

    Elizabeth ~ :)

    Roland ~ That was a gut puncher of a comment. I cannot imagine living through something so traumatic. Were you ever able to forgive your father for what he did to you? Did he ever sober up and realize how awful this action was? I am sorry that this happened to you... and so grateful that Maude and Tufts found you and saved you. That experience forever colored the way you saw the homeless. They have a face and it looks like love.

  12. Susan is a very talented and funny writer. :)

  13. ROBIN ~
    I sure do remember this excellent blog bit by Susan, because I read it and commented on it when it first appeared at her site. (As I recall, she was surprised that my comment displayed a tender side, because she was more used to me being... you know... how I so often am... sarcastic, skeptical, and curmudgeonly, I suppose.

    Real, real nice selection here, Robin, the Girl Wonder!

    I hope you're feeling much better now - migraine subsided considerably an' all.

    Yak Later...

    ~ D-FensDogg
    'Loyal American Underground'

  14. We give money to Wounded Warriors, St. Jude's Children's Hospital, Goodwill, and several other well chosen charities. I don't usually give to the homeless because I feel that some aren't earnest and are just out for easy money.

    That said, sometimes the heart kicks into overdrive and I think, "But for the grace of God, there go I."

    My daughters and I were driving home from the supermarket and, while we waited for the light to change, we saw a homeless woman who looked like she'd had a very hard life. We looked at each other and scrambled to find something to give this woman. We found protein bars and some singles that we just happened to have on us since we don't usually carry cash. She said thank you and god bless you. My daughters and I all got something in our eyes on the rest of the drive home.

  15. This post made me cry, but a good cry. Very touching. We donate whenever we can, sometimes money, sometimes time, and I wish we could do it more.

  16. What an incredible story about Joel and such interesting points to ponder.

  17. I live in the country and the small town nearest to me doesn't have homeless that I know of. But as a teacher, more than once we discovered some of our students were living in cars. My daughter is in school in Boston and has learned the horror of seeing homeless people on the subway to get warm and sitting in the doorways of businesses. I often wonder how civilized people can allow it and feel ashamed of us.

  18. Susan is awesome. What a great post. I don't know if it's the writer in me but I always wonder about people's stories, how they got from point A to point B. I wish people were kind to one another all year round, or at the very least civil. It would be a better place.

  19. I remember this story...and also wondered why people were surprised. We had a similar thing happen here in the Boston area around the same time...and again, people were surprised. Why? Sadly, I wonder if all the press is a publicity vehicle...that's the cynic in me, I guess. Aside for all that, yes, Susan is wonderful! Love her trips and info and usually come off with a tidbit that makes me smile.

  20. Susan is chock full of knowdedge and she displays it with warmth and feeling. She's a wonderful person and I love her and love reading her posts.

  21. rosey & L.G. ~ :)

    StMc ~ I figured you'd remember this one. The migraine comes and goes. It was a fairly decent day today and then about an hour ago... kaboom. I wish I could go to bed, but I feel too sick to my stomach.

    cube ~Thanks for sharing your story. There are some experiences that grab you and just don't let go.

    debi ~ Oh, you're a softie.... like me:)

    Andrea ~ Yes.

    Susan ~ I know that feeling. I can't help but feel that we used to do a better job at taking care of one another.

    ms ~ I know exactly what you mean.

    Liza ~ A healthy suspicion of the press is a good thing. But it is a sad thing that the "constant" in the angle is that it is such a big shock that homeless people are decent.

    Sandra ~ :)

    Manzi ~ Me too.

  22. Susan is a wonderful person who happens to be extremely funny, and she really is a wealth of knowledge! I remember this moving story. You really have a knack for getting to the heart of everyone that you've been featuring, Robin!


  23. What a great post.

    Back when I worked at Subway, a million years ago, the boss hired a homeless guy. Nobody knew he was homeless until we caught him washing up in the sink before work. He was actually a pretty nice guy and I'm sort of ashamed that we were kind of mean to him. That was 22 years ago, but I can't use youth as an excuse.

    Homelessness is a terrible thing.

  24. Julie ~ Thank you for the lovely compliment, Miss Julie. It has been my goal to choose a blog that really says something about the blogger and how they write. What they write. Who they are.

    Briane P. ~ What we wouldn't give for a time machine to take back some of the mistakes we make? I was going to say in our youth... but there is no time bracket on that sort of thing. That guy at the Subway was attempting to pull himself out of homelessness, which is nearly impossible once you get there. No one hires you without an address. Homelessness is a terrible thing. As a society, we really need to find a better way of taking care of our sick and "lost." I know that there has to be a way.

  25. Wow. Thank you so much. I'm truly humbled by being selected for your post, and for all of the wonderful comments everyone made, as well. Darn, now I seem to have gotten (ahem) something in my eye...

    1. Here's a hankie. Now go back and enjoy your vacation!!!

  26. That was a great post. I'm glad you chose that one of Susan's.

  27. I love Susan's blog. Anyone who can conjure up Descartes with a blog title must be a winner!

  28. I didn't realize how behind I was playing catch up commenting until stopping by your blog today. This was a very touching post and is close to my heart. A very long time ago and only for a few months I too was homeless.

    Thought for the day: People who are homeless are not social inadequates. They are people without homes. [Sheila McKechnie]

    Socially inadequate is the title that society gives to the homeless persons. I think it is easier to refer to the homeless as that than the real truth. Homelessness in reality is only the truth of this failure- with blame on communities and our government.


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