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I'd Love to Change the World (but I don't know what to do)

| published July 27, 2018 |

By Craig R. Seaton, Thursday Review contributor

"Homelessness” should not be in the 21st Century lexicon of the wealthiest nation on Earth.

On my usual drive from my home in Orange Park into Jacksonville the other morning, I was grateful for many things: a beautiful day, a cooler-than-usual breeze, a family who loves me, a nice home, a hot cup of coffee in my drink holder—and light traffic on the usually busy Roosevelt Boulevard.

My gratefulness then took a back seat while passing the Clara White Mission. It was about 7:30am and even though I’d been out of bed for 2 hours already, about 20 or more folks outside the Mission were just waking up.

What a contrast to my life! My sleep was peaceful, air-conditioned, soft-pillowed and took place in a quiet room that smelled of freshly-washed linen. Theirs was most likely agitated, humid and hot, whatever-you-can-find-pillowed​—and their “bedroom” didn’t smell of freshly-washed anything. ​Sweat, excrement, urine, liquor, vomit, dirt—yes, but clean linen? ​Not a chance.

How did I find myself in a better place? I have no idea.

We all have our own opinions about homelessness, its causes and its effects on society. It’s true that many folks made bad choices, choices which landed them on The Street. But more than you could imagine are there simply because they had no other option, or because Life just dealt them a lousy deck of cards.

The reasons then, that homelessness even exists in the wealthiest nation the world has ever known, must not merely be economic. If that were the case, certainly those of us who happen to have a few dollars could pool our resources and solve the “problem” almost immediately. There’s no lack of cash in the world. We have lots and lots of it.

Likewise, if it were simply an issue of adequate housing for the city’s population, that’d be an easy fix as well. We drive by empty houses and vacant buildings all the time. Surely some of these could become adequate shelter for someone whose only “roof over their head” comes complete with stars, rain, lightning, and—in the case of those who end up in Florida—that blazing, ceaseless tropical sun.

Is it mental health? Yes, sometimes—but perhaps not as much as you’d think. But even in those cases where maintenance medications or proper medical supervision could make a difference, we have some of the best medical minds in the world—many of which offer facilities right within the city limits of my community. Surely doctors and psychologists could just take a walk down Jefferson Street with a card table and a few chairs, set up shop, and let people talk through their emotional and mental challenges. It worked for Lucy in the Peanuts comic strip, didn’t it?

After my appointment downtown, as is my custom, forsaking the oh-so-fast-and-convenient-but-​equally-unnerving-and-life-thr​eatening Beltway, I took the scenic route back down into Clay County. Winding my way down Riverside Blvd and then onto Ortega, I stopped off at Stinson Park, sat on a river-view park bench, and enjoyed my second cup of coffee. ​The onshore breeze made it more enjoyable and, as is also my custom, I began to contemplate and wonder about life, its meaning, and the all-encompassing question, “How can I do something that will make it a better place?”

I quickly resolved I couldn’t fix the whole enchilada—too big of a task, too many people, too little time left before I take the Big Dirt Nap and leave all these timeless problems to the next generation of Stinson Park Bench Sitters.

I’d love to be able to leave you with some earth-shattering, world-changing lump of wisdom which would propel us forward, striving to realize those tenets to which The Preamble (on which this wealthiest of nations was built), ascribes: A more perfect Union, the general welfare, and the Blessings of Liberty.

So, what shall we do? Do we leave it with a cool lyric from the chorus of that 1971 Ten Years After song? As an old hippie, I would answer with a resounding YES! But let’s just amend the wording a little and let it be our mantra: “I’d love to change the I’ll_________________.

Hey! I wrote the article. Fill-in your own blank with your own solution.

Related Thursday Review articles:

Wish I Had You Back Today; Craig Seaton; Thursday Review; October 1, 2017.

Mudslingers United; Craig Seaton; Thursday Review constributor; June 15, 2018.