…And I think It’s Going to Rain Today…

I saw my first homeless person in December 1981,  35 years ago.

I shot this video on Thursday, December 15, 2016.

View at full screen, if you can.

Most people consider a sight an elderly man shoving a cart of wet
belongings in a drenching rain normal.

They want to live like this, we say.

The State Hospitals were so much worse, we say.

It’s too expensive to fix, we say.

Think of all the lies we have to tell ourselves
to make the daily sight of human suffering
seem normal.

Then remember that all of it is the result of our vote.

Tin can at my feet
Think I’ll kick it down the street
That’s the way to treat a friend

The video is made from photographs of San Francisco’s mentally ill
homeless between 2012 and 2015.

“I Think it’s Going to Rain Today”
Song by Judy Collins
Lyrics by Randy Newman

Mother, You Need Shoes

Mother, You Need Shoes

 

I would not have noticed her had our subway car not cleared of people
at Lexington Avenue.

She wore a tattered stocking cap.

She removed it and stuffed it into her jacket.

She held a grimy white bag between her legs.

She reached into it and pulled out half a doughnut.

That was when I noticed her shoes.

The uppers had split from the soles; she wrapped
her feet in newspaper and rags.

I thought, Mother, you need shoes.

I wondered if forty dollars would do.

I looked up and watched her untangle a lock of matted grey hair.

She reached into her bag and found a bobby pin.

She styled the loosened lock of hair into a bun

I had forty dollars.

But it was for vitamins; specifically, anti-oxidants.

My body is rusting faster than a wet Ford.

The crows feet around my eyes whispered: erase us; your happiness
is our absence.

I examined the old woman’s cracked and broken shoes; they
were useless for January in New York.

She closed her eyes, ready to savor a long warm ride.

Maybe she lives in the subway!

Like those people in Dark Days.

If she never leaves the subway she doesn’t need new shoes!

My crow’s-feet said yes!

But that can’t be right, I thought; an old woman, alone, with
nothing but a stale doughnut for dinner.

I felt myself stand and watched as I took two twenties out of my wallet.

Then I knelt and said, “Mother, you need shoes.”

She smiled at me and nodded in agreement.

“Will forty dollars do?”

“Yes,” she said, “God bless you.”

I smiled and returned to my seat, and listened as my crow’s-feet maliciously threatened to spread.

 

Rob Goldstein (c) 2014-2017 All Rights Reserved

 

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A Butterfly for my Forever Mom

Art by Rob Goldstein

A year ago Linda Bethea and her Mother, Kathleen Swain, did two of the nicest things two strangers have ever done for me.

Linda sent me the gift of a hand designed bag and Kathleen sent me a drawing and a hand written note that claimed me as her Forever Son.

At the time I didn’t know what that term meant.

When I looked it up and saw the definition I was touched on so many levels of emotion that I hardly knew what to do.

A year later and I see how that gesture of compassion healed me in ways that I still don’t fully fathom.

What I do know is that it was an act that changed my life for the better.

When we help to make the lives of other people better we make life better for ourselves as well.

I never forget an act of kindness.

Thank you to Linda and to your wonderful Mother.

There is more grace in my life because of you.

To the Women We’ve Lost to Breast Cancer

To the Women We've Lost to Breast Cancer

My paternal Grandmother’s name was Sara

She died when my Father was still a boy.

My Father’s family had immigrated to the United States in the mid 1800’s.

Charleston was one of the few colonial cities after Savannah, Georgia that
allowed Jews to practice their faith without restriction.

Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim Synagogue was founded in 1749. It is the fourth oldest Jewish congregation in the continental United States. It had always been my family’s synagogue.

Most of the early Jewish Immigrants to Charleston were Sephardic.

My Father was Sephardic as was my Mother.

Sephardim refer to the descendants of Jews who lived in and were expelled
from Spain in the 15th century.

The term Sephardim comes from Sepharad,  the Hebrew word for Spain.

Some members of my family spoke Ladino.

Ladino is Judeo-Spanish. It is the spoken and written Hispanic language
of Jews of Spanish origin.

My Father and his Family were ‘Old Charleston’ and proud of it.

When he mentioned his Mother, he described a loving woman
who worked hard and was a leader in their community.

I have never heard the story of Sara’s illness but my Father said
that she seemed to vanish a little each day.

I don’t know the name of the illness but the word ‘cancer’ was whispered.

In the Charleston of my Father’s youth, people had many superstitions.

People with Cancer were shunned because everyone thought that Cancer
was contagious or that cancer was a form of demonic possession.

Some people thought that rubbing a toad on the affected breast healed
breast cancer.

And far too many people still believe all illness is punishment from God.

There remains a residue of stigma that attends Cancer in American society.

We still associate health with virtue and illness with moral lassitude.

The death of my Father’s Mother deeply wounded him,  and I think that
this wound altered the course of his life.

We’ve learned ways to mitigate damage to our bodies.

We know much more about everything in 2016 but we still have much
to learn.

We never replace our sisters, mothers, favorite aunts, best friends and
Grandmothers.

As we consider the women we love and honor and the women we have lost, let us all do one small thing each day to make the future enlightened and more compassionate.

Dedicated to Sara.

Pink Ribbon

I should like to have met you.