According to Google Maps, I can hop in my car and get to a nice Homeland Supermarket in 8 minutes.
Not all my neighbors are that fortunate, and I got a real clear picture of that last Friday.
Getting ready for fundraiser on Saturday, on Friday, which was April 1, I headed for the printer and at pretty close to 12:30 pm, on 13th Street N. just east of the 235 overpass, I noticed an older man pushing an empty shopping cart, heading west, as I was. Since I only saw him from the rear, I couldn’t discern much except that some gray hair was visible, and faded clothes. It was just a glance, and while such sights are not completely rare, for some reason I noticed him and gave him a second or two of sympathetic thought. The cart was empty, not like most homeless people, so I kind of wondered what his story was.
Then I forgot about it and continued on with my business of dropping off my last-minute print job.
At almost 5 pm, I headed out the same route as before, to pick up the job before they closed. Remarkably, at almost the same spot — a bit further east but not much — I saw a gray-haired man pushing a shopping cart eastward, this time with 5 or 6 full plastic grocery bags in the cart. I’m convinced it was the same guy, and he had just spent 4 1/2 hours (at least, since I don’t know exactly where he lives) getting groceries, probably with his monthly check. I suspect he went to Homeland on Classen and 18th; from my apartment in Lincoln Terrace, that’s 2.2 miles away. That doesn’t sound far to a car owner, does it?
If I had not had to get to the printer post haste, I would have stopped at offered to drive him at least the rest of the way to his destination, but the pick up at the printer took longer than I would have liked, and when I went back along that road there was no sign of him — hopefully because he had made it home and was resting his poor feet. As I drove slowly along 13th, to see if there was any sign of him, I imagined picking him up and driving him to the store every month. He might be a Vietnam Vet, I thought, or maybe he digs Willy Nelson, who he kind of reminded me of. Maybe he would have refused my offer, maybe it would need to be arranged to seem less like charity for a proud man to accept such a suggestion from a stranger. Maybe a local church could institute a shuttle. Well, my imagination started churning out a dozen remedies to this unacceptable situation in the city I’ve adopted and historic neighborhood I love.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t like living in a neighborhood and city where some old man has this task to look forward to every month so he can eat on his meager income.
Now let me say that it’s great that there is an expanding and thriving medical complex two blocks from me. It’s pretty damn handy if I accidentally try to cut off my finger (which I kinda did a couple months ago, though I didn’t end up having to go to the emergency room), and it’s contributing a great deal to the economy and academic development of the city and state.
But really, how can you hold your head up as a medical community, a civic entity and a decent neighborhood when a poor old guy has to spend 4 and a half hours getting a few groceries that might last him two weeks if he’s lucky or, more likely, really careful.
You can’t, that’s the answer to that question, not while meeting any standard of civilized behavior.
Now let me say a few words about the OKC City Council. It is and has been for some time made up of probably nice enough people who think they are doing right by giving tax breaks and outright bribes to corporations and sports owners to get them to locate here or stay here. I’m sure all the people they see at church and social events they attend are pretty jazzed about their public service. But there is more to living in and managing a city than corporations and rich people who cater to them.
Maybe Charlie Swinton would feel a heart tug seeing that old guy. But would he talk about him at a council meeting and try to convince his colleagues to help a small but health-conscious grocery go up somewhere in the shadow of OU Medical Center? I can’t conjure up that picture in my mind. Not his ward, you know. There are some really good banks right there, though, he might say.
But I don’t have to use any imagination to see Ed Shadid doing that. I know for a fucking fact it would happen, and it wouldn’t have to wait for the eve of the next election when he’s looking to work up some warm fuzzies.
Ed Shadid cares about PEOPLE, and especially about the people that live in his city. He cares about their kids, and about their grandparents. He doesn’t just look at people for what they can do for him, he SEES and HEARS them and what they love, what they might fear, and what they might need. ALL OF THEM, not just those who need bankers.
Please help get Ed Shadid elected today. Somebody’s quality of life depends on it.
Correx: Added missing work to the third paragraph to make it read “NOT completely rare.”