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Raymond by Sam S

Raymond | “Dad can we go down that alley?” my daughter asks. “Sure.” We cross the street, which is closed to traffic as there is some sort filming going on, we squeeze between a moving van which is blocking the entrance to the ally and this is were we met Raymond. His shopping cart in the middle of the alley way piled with various bits of salvageable materials he was hunched over a dumpster looking for more. A polite man, he had overlooked my son kicking a box of his filled with plastic bottles. He would later prove himself to be a gracious man, forgiving my son, for proudly finding a dead rat a presenting it to us on cardboard plater. “Get it away get it away!” He shouted at my boy. After helping my son put the dead rat down and out if sight. I apologize to Raymond who dismisses my apology, “He’s just being a boy…he reminds me I my nephew.” “But he has to be careful. I’m always really careful, I just don’t sticky hands in here,” he says looking again for scraps of metal in the dumpster, “there are dirty needles in here.” “There are a lot of heroin addicts around here, he says looking up and around pointing at the variousĀ  buildings that create the valley were we stand. “I should know there are a lot. I go through their trash.”

But before the dead rat Raymond and I were talking about life. In his 60s and recently homeless for the first time, “I made some bad decisions.” He did not elaborate and I didn’t ask. While we talked he was always moving always working.

He talked about being grateful. “I pray everyday and give thanks, but I can’t ask God for help and then not go and do anything…this stuff is here for me to take,” holding up a small scrap of metal, “I believe that God helps those who help themselves.” “I don’t ever want to beĀ  like those people in the wheelchairs, on Skid-row, who think that every body owes them something.” “I’m always grateful for what I have…you have to be grateful.”

I ask him if had family around to help him. He mentions family scattered over countries, states and cities but that they help, “when I let them.”