Greetings and God Bless, my name is Hobo John and if you are reading this you can count on one thing, and that is, I love you with everything that I have. (That last part is my mantra by the way.) I can say that now, but it has certainly not always been true.
Ten years or so ago I found myself homeless in the Florida Keys after yet another job came crashing down. But about a year before the crash I was handed the key to the dark side of my psyche, when a memory surfaced of an ugly molestation at the hands of my Judo instructor, when I was nine. I had always remembered part of that night, but had kept the worst of it hid from myself until my late 30’s. I drifted around for seven years, mostly running from the guy who, in my head, had hurt me pretty good, and was still after me.
Well, after about six years I started to feel pretty good, I had examined just about every fear that had ever haunted me and found them lacking. During that time I talked to just about no one, I ate from dumpsters, rarely showered or even changed my clothes. I spent another six months kind of getting to know some of the people who worked in the places I hung around in the town of Mansfield, Texas, even started living behind a church a using the hose to clean myself up. God was my constant companion although I didn’t know it then, if fact, one of my greatest fears was he didn’t love me anymore.
But he proved beyond a shadow of a doubt he did, and with his love came the confidence to re-enter life as most of you folks know it. I came back home to Idaho, repaired my relationship with my family, drove some cab and did some lawn work.
That is the thing with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, part of you is always living in the wound thinking the world is a terrifying place. Those seven years turned out to be a Godsend, as it relieved the pressures of work, family and society and gave me a chance to get to know myself again.
Now I am an ex-hobo returning to the streets for a while. I consider myself a bit of a mystic and the streets, where there are no obligations and no routine is a great place to heal emotional wounds and get in touch with the you that is beyond ego. Going through garbage cans was my main source of food and I would recycle cans for money, so I started where I left off.
The beach had very few bottles and cans (way to go Lincoln City). I smiled at four rich kids, maybe middle-eastern, in their mid-twenties. I assumed they were rich because they were lollygagging in front of a Mercedes and a Lexus. I found a fresh Pepsi can down by the rocks. It had a hole in it and the top was un-popped.
Later I approached the kids and asked for their cans and bottles. Several of the cans were Pepsi, and I deduced from the sheepish look on one of the kid’s faces, he had thrown the can by the rocks. As I was walking away he was getting what sounded like a pretty good tongue lashing from those ladies, in a middle-eastern accent to boot. There was always a little shame in going through the garbage cans while homeless, but doing it is also a good way to get over caring what people think about you.
I found a bottle of rum with a little booze still in it and a 3/4 cup of Starbucks coffee. I combined the two and had a very pleasing mid-morning cocktail. This may disturb some of you, but after seven years of dumpster-diving my immune system is strong and my stomach cast iron. Besides the creator of the universe has only his own essence to create with, so what else could I be eating or drinking besides a piece of God? How is that for mystical?
Later, I ran into a couple of ladies by a garbage can in a shopping mall, and ask them for cans. One of them has some kind of growth, like warts all over her face. I tell her she is beautiful which seems to touch her and she gives me a piece of wood she found and an earring.
So I give her an agate and a shell I had found at the beach. I sing her a little Jesus hymn I wrote and soon we are both crying, her eyes are much clearer then I anticipated them being. I touch her face and she soaks it up like a sponge. I say everybody needs touch especially in the sore spots. She gives me a lighter, complains about how fat a certain seagull is, which is a projection of her own over-weight feelings. I don’t say anything about that, we have some more small talk and then I leave.
I attended a college reunion in Oregon. That is right; I am an educated man with a Master’s of Social Work. With all that false pride a hoity-toity education can bring, one of my number one obstacles to being happy on the streets was the stigma of being homeless. I had really enjoyed the streets by the time I was done, even started to write catchy little phrases I call Hobo Metaphysics. Happiness requires no requirements, is one of the first of the sayings I ever wrote. Everything you need to feel good is right inside of you folks, hope that is something you can understand.
Like I said I was all by myself those seven years and sure, I got some shit, but overall the small town folks didn’t bother me too much, just let me walk around looking strange. When I got to Portland I was shocked about a few things. One was the amount of homeless young people, the amount of homeless women, the drug use and most of all the scorn they received just for being homeless.
Most of the people I met had been through some sort of trauma, be it molestation, rape, physical abuse or being shot at like the vets. Homeless folks do not need to suck it up and get a job, they need a safe place to live, time to heal and most importantly to be treated with the kindness and respect all us humans deserve as children of the most high.
Now I am not for the government doing more to help these folks. There help tends to come with a lot of humiliation, stipulations, and rules, but I am for us finding our hearts again as a people and taking care of our own.
Thanks – would love to hear from you
— Hobo John
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