The badge I wear gets attention. I call that a good thing, since getting attention is why I got it in the first place. This is the badge I wear whenever I leave the house.
I was walking amiably to my car parked in a handicapped spot, (my tag was hanging from the mirror), and a woman in her 50s was helping a really old woman with a walker-cane out of an SUV parked in the next spot. When I got to the driver’s door of my car, she stepped forward. “Okay, I’ve got to see what it says on your badge,” she told me with a smile.
So, I showed her. She mispronounced my name, pronouncing it “Caddy”, like someone who carries golf clubs, so I corrected her. Then she said, “Human Being?” She looked up at me and I explained, as I always do, “I was homeless 4⅓ years and people automatically treated me with disrespect. I decided about a year before I was ‘paroled’ from that hell I’d get my Human Being badge and be shown the respect I deserved in the first place.”
“Oh? So you’ve been through recovery?”
“I meant, have you been to AA, or Narcotics Anonymous, or …” she let it trail off.
“I didn’t need a recovery program,” I told her. “My dog died.”
“Oh. So, you were depressed? That made you become homeless?”
“That’s what did it,” I confirmed.
She smiled and they walked away, the older woman hobbling on her cane. “Great. Well, have a very nice day.”
We all have a reason, or reasons, for becoming homeless. I’ll always be a homeless guy as long as there are legal Americans without a roof, a bed and food to eat. Very seldom does anyone ever find out why we’re homeless … or care. The badge did the job I intended it to do when it got her attention. That moment gave me the opportunity to briefly speak out on behalf of all of us, the homeless community. It incites the “elevator pitch” my friend Alex suggested I adopt a year or so past. Somehow, before I die, I want to get together enough money to buy those badges for other homeless guys to wear.
Until I do, will you help us by taking a shortcut? The next time you see a homeless guy, will you take five minutes and ask him how he was pushed into that nook of hell? The answer may very well interest you.
I’m just sayin’.
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