We are a giant Web, truly a Social Network…so, why do we so often forget that?

Nov 11, 2010 by

About a decade ago my mother and stepfather, because of a series of unfortunate investments and dismal financial missteps, found themselves living in their motor home in a shopping mall parking lot. Different people approach the world and its circumstances in different ways.

For my stepfather, well, it was a grand adventure. My parents were retired by this point. So he wanted to travel, use the opportunity to see every crack in the country he’d not yet visited. As a younger man he’d laced his motorcycle in and around every black-ribboned highway he could find the time to journey while raising a family and holding down a demanding job.

But for my mother, this storyline in her biography felt completely terrifying. For my mother her life had become a failure. She saw herself as – homeless. This brilliant, beautiful, capable and perennially creative woman perceived that after 65 years on this planet she’d lost her security, her dignity, her confidence, her “self”.

She kept me outside the loop of these circumstances when we would talk on the phone.

Shame, embarrassment, self-reproach, guilt, remorse, humiliation… these treacherous emotions often cause us to hide things from those that love us the most because we so fear their rejection or disappointment. Yet, it is the love of those that love us the most that so often is the rope and ladder back to our selves.

With nothing but the clothes on their backs, the vehicle to carry them and a few household items my stepfather saw freedom and my mother saw failure.

My stepfather was a very healthy sixty-nine years young.

My mother’s painful back injury complicated much of her life.

They lived in the shopping mall parking lot where their P.O. box was located.

My mother determined to continue to pay all her remaining bills on time or early. This was somehow proof to herself that she still had some control over a life she no longer recognized as her own because it had seemingly spun so completely out of control. Thus, she and my stepfather lived chained to a mailbox for almost a year.

My mother is no longer living.

She left this plane we all share about six years ago.

I miss ya’, Mom.

So, today and each day when I look around my community and I confront the horrendous truth of what the financial devastation of our country and our global economy has created I am stricken. I pass shopping mall parking lots. I see the motor homes parked overnight. I drive by parks and see the shopping carts packed with precious possessions, remnants of lives once much fuller. Driving under a foliaged freeway overpass in larger metropolises I see cardboard box beds. There are the stored and secured bags, newspapers and cans, these hard sought treasures are soon to become subsidizing income sources.

Forced to live a compromised life on public display, seeking shelter, food, cleansing, even a bathroom, always in the wide-angle lens of the entire world, knowing no safety, no respite from weather, meager resources, the need to be watchful, fear.

Here in the United States alone 3.5-million people are homeless, of those people 1.4 million are children. This means 40% of the homeless in this country are children…….

But what do we see? Mostly, we see the inanimate items, the symbols in the streets. Intellectually, we know what they mean. We understand the signals of pain, fear, devastation and personal destitution they represent, and when they begin that slow rising shrill scream inside us – QUICKLY, we look away.

People, whose lives have been thrown in the air like a deck of playing cards, scattered about the room. But, I will tell you, a lot of those cards will never be found again. They will land behind a memory of shame too dark to revisit or fall in the depression of a weight too heavy to move.

Those cards I speak of don’t refer to personal possessions, to “things” or “objects” that define us. I’m talking to you about self-esteem, a personal sense of security, one’s comfort in the world. It’s these cards in the deck that are sometimes never recovered.

I look into the eyes of the people in those motor homes, the ones going through bags in the park or pushing shopping carts down the alleyway. I’ve come to know intimately the people who live beneath the overpasses.

They are not all my mother; They are not all my stepfather. They are not all any one person. Every one of These people, woman and man, infant, child, teen or mature adult or elder, each has Their own story. But, They have a story. They are not a byline or a stereotype. They are not a product of one event or one reason. But, They are too many and They are too limited in Their options. And this is what strikes deepest in me; for now, you see I realize while They are all different people and They are not any one person I am tortured and touched by all of Them; for I recognize Them all. For, any of Them by the slightest twist of life could be Me……….

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  1. Dearest Sonia, I appreciate, so very much, the tender eloquence of your expression and empathy. Thank you for your kind heart and willingness to share, for it is so often that by such willingness to share our own truth we help others realize they are not alone in their fear, confusion and sense of loss. We all may have walked in different shoes, but we have all know shoes of pain and sadness. Namaste, sweet friend. b

  2. Sonia

    Brook, this was a very touching story and well written. Brook, I am sorry for what happened to your family. My heart goes out to you.

    This year has been tough for me. My husband lost his job and our lives were turned upside down. Things have gotten a lot better but I know just how close we came to losing everything. I know the worry, fear, stress, sickness that comes along with wondering will you have a roof over your head and food on your table. Trying to smile and act like everything is okay around your co-workers and friends. My heart goes out to those on the street that have no where to go or no one to care for them. I feel for the children who feel hopeless.

  3. Yes, sweetheart!! 🙂

  4. Thank you, sweet Nao. 🙂

  5. My dearest Paresh, thank you. Your words are, as always, my friend, wise counsel. Thank you, again.

  6. Naomi

    <3 was supposed to be a heart, but then again, you know that……. 🙂

  7. Naomi

    <3 Brooke……….
    Beautifully written. Thank you my dear.

  8. Very well written,Brooke.Today only I came to know the source of your power. This sort of empathy,kindness and love for the people who are broke or homeless do not come easily to those who have not seen the fear in the face. Do keep connected to your powerhouse,your source.It will hold you in good stead throughout your life.Love and happiness to you.

  9. Thank you, Charles, for your graciousness.

  10. Charles Brown

    Thanks for sharing your families story .

  11. How true it is that as a life begins to change so often all we can do is attend, as best we can, to make the best of what remains. Peace and love to you, sweet friend.

  12. Thank you, Gale. When we stand with life so changed we can not help but be changed by it. Thank you, again, your thoughts are greatly appreciated. This topic is one that never seems to leave us, no matter the culture or the geopolitics we are all left to say in the end, “How can I help you, sister? How can I help you, brother?”

  13. Donna Morask

    Tortured and touched simultaneously… yes I understand this too. This made me cry; not for your mother, for she chose this life and all it’s subsequent lessons for this particular journey. I instead cry for all those who suffer now and don’t know why or how they came to be where they are. I cry too for you Brooke Leigh, and my tears are for the fleeting moments that so quickly can change our lives… while we watch those we love begin to slip away. Reading your tag line, created for archival purposes; the words chosen speak volumes… Look at them again;
    “Tagged as: courageous, fear, fresh start, homeless, life path, love, value of life” yes, your words carefully written, are all these things and more. Namaste.

  14. In light of today’s “Gilted Age” and thrust of the Robberbarons, this article to circle us back to individual compassion for our fellow man is moving and timely.