Potter, Magic and Mercy
AUTHOR'S NOTE: this was written on Thursday, December 30 and intended to be posted on Friday, December 31. For reasons beyond my control I was unable to do that. There is plenty of good news today, Monday, January 3, but I will save it and post this column as written.
I transmitted my last column on Wednesday, December 29 at about 4:00 p.m. I just had time to catch the bus and get to the grocery store before going home. With only $3 I could not buy much, but I had to shop. I needed food. The bus came, and I got on board.
"Excuse me, sir, would you happen to have a cigarette?"
I loathe this question. I do not smoke and I despise people who do. I double-despise people who bum smokes, which is nearly all of them. The guy asking was pretty pathetic-looking with a sour-looking woman sitting next to him. I took an instant dislike to them both.
"I'm sorry, I don't smoke."
But you know, something happened the moment I said those words. I softened up a bit. I said, "you know, I get coupons for cigarettes all the time in the mail, and I don't even smoke. I should carry them with me so I can give them out to smokers."
The woman laughed bitterly. "You wouldn't have a few bucks so we could get a pack, would you?" I told her I didn't. We got to talking. As it turned out she had just lost her job and she and her husband were out trying to fill his prescriptions. And they were dead broke.
"What kind of prescriptions?" I asked. "Maybe I can help." I always carry my own meds with me, and I was ready to give them what they needed if I had it.
"Painkillers," she said with a dead, hopeless tone. I knew that tone very well. Nobody will help you with painkillers - "nobody" being the charities and free clinics that will happily help you with everything else. They think everyone who comes to them needing pain relief is a crybaby or a junkie. But you cannot blame them, really. They get their money from our government, and it is our government that forces everyone to suffer in pain, just so a bunch of self-righteous jerks can believe they are "fighting drug abuse."
"What kind of painkillers?"
"Oxycodone," she said. "My husband has cancer."
I did not ask what kind of cancer. It could have been lung cancer, in which case Smokey The Bear had probably done it to himself. Some people would get all uptight about that. Not me. I know what it is to be in pain. I do not have cancer, only kidney disease, but I know. When you are suffering in a roaring, howling firestorm of pain and nothing else will work, narcotics are God's gentle Grace from Heaven. I need them every day. I don't get them, thanks to some Protestant pricks who think they are Doing God's Work, but I need them. And I just happened to have some with me.
"How about Percocet? Will that help?"
"OH GOD YES!" You should have seen the Husband's eyes light up. I knew what he was feeling. It was the same way I felt the first time I had kidney stones when, after six hours of agony, the nurse finally brought the needle: sweet relief!
"Oh God, please, as many as you can spare, we can't pay you--"
"And I'm glad of that!" I said. "If you paid me that would make me a drug dealer, and I don't need that kind of trouble."
Now I will make no claim to being a pure-hearted Good Samaritan. I had to cover my own needs. I still would be cutting into them, but what the heck. I counted out my last few remaining Percocets. I really need about 60 milligrams (mg) per day, but thanks to Draconian drug laws my doctor only prescribes about 15 mg. per day. I counted out six 5mg. tablets - 2 days' worth - and kept them. I gave the rest to the needy couple.
I know what you are thinking. Bob, you're a sucker. No, Bob is not a sucker. I have heard every sucker story there is at least twice, and I knew these people were straight up. Very few people know that pure Oxycodone tablets even exist, and no idiot junkie would try to scam them on the bus. They were for real.
"Oh, God bless you sir!" said the Wife. And you know, it felt really good to realize that I had just Made Their Day, even though I had ruined my own. I felt so sorry for them I wanted to add a little bonus on top.
"You want some chocolate?" I asked. See, I get these giant 1 lb. (0.38kg.) candy bars at the grocery store and then break them down into smaller bars. One big bar makes about 8 small ones, at about 12 cents per bar, a huge savings. So I gave them my last two, wrapped in tin foil. They thanked me, then their stop arrived and they departed.
As they went out the door the Wife said, "If we see you on the bus again, we'll pay you back!" But it probably won't happen. If they do see me again they will probably be in need, and if I have any meds I will probably help them again. No charge.
See? What Would Dumbledore Do?
He would share his last few Percocets with a cancer patient.
And some chocolate too.
(Read the William S. Burroughs story, "The Junkie's Christmas" to get a better idea of what real Agony and Salvation feel like.)
TIDAL WAVE UPDATE:
SURVIVORS NEED A PLACE TO LIVE
As I sit here comfortably in the air-conditioning of the Three Broomsticks while the other side of the World is shattered beyond belief, I have decided where I will send my money. Not to any of the groups listed in my previous editorial, though they are all worthy and do noble work. Instead, I will give my meager cash to the folks who provide new shelter for those rendered homeless.
The New York Times (that dirty Commie propaganda rag) reports that ONE MILLION PEOPLE ARE NOW HOMELESS - and that is only in Sri Lanka, a fairly small country. In India, Burma, Thailand, Bangladesh and Indonesia it must be far worse. Bangladesh, in particular, is a country made up almost entirely of the Ganges River Delta and barely rises above sea level - NORMAL sea level. Bangladesh is horribly vulnerable to floods in normal times. What about now? If we don't know, it is because there is only so much room for the news. Bangladesh must be hurting.
And don't forget that Indonesia suffered not only the wave, but the
earthquake. That's what caused the wave, you know. Sumatra was shaken to the ground - literally. This island is about the size of California, Oregon and Washington State combined, with maybe a little of British Columbia thrown in. Lots of people live there. They need our help not just now, but will need it for at least another year. Maybe longer.
All of the organizations below provide new shelter for victims of disasters. These are not tents or crappy, sub-par sheds but well-built homes people can live in permanently. They go up quickly and last a long time. Best of all, local people are employed to build them, and the materials are bought locally too. This helps the economy in these devastated areas.
(EXCEPTION: Global Village Homes ships pre-fab houses made in Illinois. What is lost in local investment is made up for in immediate utility. It's your choice.)
These groups have already mobilized, God bless 'em, but they still need your help and will for years to come.Give them some cash right now, then more whenever you can. Come on, you don't really need another DVD, do you? The only luxuries you really need this year will be a ticket to Goblet Of Fire - okay, two tickets - and your copy of Half-Blood Prince. Otherwise, give these people your cash.
I suppose this is a good time for a little more personal revelation: I, your humble correspondent, used to be homeless. From November 30, 1996 to November 9, 1999 I was an Involuntary Outdoorsman. I survived 3 cruel winters on the streets of Columbus, Ohio and that is a very cold place indeed.
But yet, I was never without shelter. And no, I don't mean the kind of "shelter" you are thinking of. Screw those places! They are far too dangerous and unhealthy for me to risk my life in - I was much safer on the street! No, my shelter was a 5 x 10-foot self-storage locker, which I rented for the entire 3 years I was homeless. I worked most of that time, so I could afford it. It had a concrete floor and steel roof and walls, and it kept out the weather. During the blizzards I was grateful to be inside. I knew people who weren't.
(Yes, MOST HOMELESS PEOPLE WORK FOR A LIVING. They are busy working during the day so you do NOT see them begging on the street. The ones begging on the street [in America, at least] are WELFARE CASES who have a solid place to live, and a welfare check, and plenty of time to sit around all day trying to make you feel sorry for them. Real homeless people do not have this luxury. They are busy working, which is why you don't see them. Another myth destroyed.)
Now you wouldn't want me to be homeless, would you? I hope not. And I hope you will extend the same compassion to Wikum, wherever he is, and to his 1,000,000+ homeless countrymen, and the millions of others suffering through this horrible destruction.
Before you can do ANYTHING, you need shelter. Shelter is basic.
These people provide shelter:
I receive about $600 per month on my disability pension. I will be sending each of these groups about $10 each month for the next year, a total of about $50 per month. If I can do that, what can you do? (Yes, I am trying to embarrass you) Remember too that this has to be a sustained effort: there is no quick fix. The survivors need to get their lives back together, and that may take years. You really do *NOT* need another DVD.
HUMOR WHERE YOU FIND IT: I live in an old, 1950s-era building with a roof that is currently leaking melted snow all over my living room carpet. I just realized that, within a year, some of the tsunami victims could be living in newer and better homes than me. Let's make that happen!
UPDATE ON WIKUM
As of Monday, January 3 my friend Wikum (whose last name is not "Dina" as I thought) is alive and well. He was almost totally unaffected by the tsunami. He was *very* affected by my last editorial, and thanked me. He says the entire country is still in shock. They were caught totally unprepared, and for a good reason: nothing like this has ever happened in Sri Lanka. Like many of his fellow Sri Lankans who did come through relatively well, he is helping to relieve those who didn't.
Posted by: Nicole
If you would like to contact Bob, you may do so at sindeldeckerr at hotmail dot com.