By Gerald Olesen
for the Humboldt Sentinel
I pray each day for the homeless, the aimless, the mentally ill, the laid-off and the evicted, the overworked, the underpaid, the undereducated and the prisoners, all of whom I have met at some time in my life.
I am a Humboldt County native who lived in Eureka from 1943-1950. For the years 1949 and 1950, I worked for Eureka
Newspapers, selling the evening paper (The Standard) on the
In those days, no one EVER warned us (there were around 20 street sellers) of any dangers in any of the areas we worked, which included the “north of fourth” area, including every bar and card room in the area. I do not recall any of us boys (yes, kids were doing that work in those days), who were usually 10-13 years old, ever being troubled by anyone on those “mean streets.” Yes, there were some men who were drunken derelicts around, but they did no harm, except to themselves.
What has happened to Eureka? As I see it, the advent of available drugs, the aftermaths of the Vietnam and later wars we have been involved in, and the closing of mental facilities, have changed our society and left us with many mentally ill and drug-laced people who are seen all over town. Some of these have self-inflicted problems and others are simply victims of circumstances their minds would not tolerate, who were turned out upon the streets to live as best they could. Whatever the cause of their troubles, they are REAL and are simply not going away and we who are unaffected should do what we can to ease their pain.
I have been retired for many years and have worked at the St. Joseph Pantry Shelf in Fortuna for a long time and have seen many of folks who, for whatever reason, are in need and we do what we can to give them a bit of food. In our sort of business, judgments are best left to others (preferably God). If one becomes too judgmental, one would probably not help. I think the situation is pretty well summed up by this: If you have two shirts, one belongs to you and the other to the person who has none.
This is a thorny issue and any of us will, at times, wonder if we are enabling such people to continue their lifestyle. No doubt there are abusers, as there are in any human endeavor. It is said that we should teach a man to fish, instead of merely giving him a fish. That makes sense, as far as it goes, but if the man is hungry today, we need to, first, give him something to eat and then think about fishing lessons. We who do this work will be called “do-gooders” by some and that is o.k., because that is exactly what we are attempting to do, some good.
In the recent article regarding the homeless day center that has been proposed by Betty Chinn and Catholic Charities (”Opening a door for those in need,” Times-Standard, Oct. 26, Page A1), those who are complaining would seem to be folks who have been fortunate to have received a rather large slice of the “stuff” of this life.
I do not doubt that they worked very hard to amass whatever they have, but to withhold aid from our brothers who have fallen upon hard times, regardless of the cause, comes off as a bit selfish.
Yes, some folks can be very thoughtless and destructive and we certainly wish they would do better, but they are still members of our imperfect human race and we should do whatever we can to help them and, if possible, change the course of their lives. I think Betty Chinn and Catholic Charities are trying to do just that in the best way they know how. We should support their efforts.
I believe in this, from Luke 12:48: Everyone to whom much is given, of him much will be required.
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Gerald Olesen resides in Fortuna. He kindly gave us his permission to reprint his letter which first appeared in the Times-Standard news on November 4, 2012.
We read much material and many letters in the course of our day. This one hit both the mark and struck home.
Thank you, Mr. Olesen.
(Images by the Humboldt Sentinel. Posted by Skippy Massey)