Because I run a mom taxi, and drive around our city A LOT, I notice people, places, things...the little nuisances about Orlando. Like the preserved brick streets in Thornton Park, or the seriously gorgeous landscaping beds full of Century Plants and Coral Honeysuckle along the East-West Expressway. Or the Beefy King that has been in business for over forty years located across the street from the T.G. Lee Milk Dairy that has been in business for twice as long, both of which are located in the Milk District of Orlando on the same block as the old Plaza Movie Theatre that I went to as a child.
Yes, all of this and so much more makes Orlando endearing to me. And yet there is a sadness that runs through the veins of this pretty city. A sadness known as homelessness. Yes, under that impeccably manicured expressway, which whisks people home from work everyday, live desperate souls. I've seen their faces. One face in particular stands out to me every week. Last year, I was able to put a name with the face. His name is Rich (name changed).
Rich is a reader. He devours books daily as he sits in his makeshift home under the on ramp. Rich has always been a reader, even when his kids were little he made time to read. He loves books. Rich also loves coffee with cream, no sugar and pie (especially apple). Rich treasures his bi-weekly phone chats with his daughter-in-law. What he does not treasure is the local homeless shelter which he says is dangerous and unhealthy. Rich can't afford to get sick. He can't afford much of anything. He describes his life as bizarre, "Like me", he says referring to himself. Rich often looks tired. When asked where he sleeps at night, Rich gives a vague answer, "Oh, here and there", he says.
On one occasion, I ask Rich what I could do to help him. He pauses for a long moment, then smiles and says, "A book would be nice." Rich is addicted to books. Rich is also addicted to alcohol.
I have found myself wondering how Rich got to where he is today - homeless, dirty, addicted to alcohol, and living on the edge everyday. How can someone intelligent and well spoken, like Rich, a father of three grown children end up on the streets? It does not make sense.
Addictions of any kind can bring a person to the edge. Addictions know no cultural or ethnic boundaries. Addictions cut to the quick and tear families apart. They kill hopes and dreams. Addictions can transport one from home into homelessness. Rich doesn't have to read a book to learn how destructive addictions are, he lives it everyday. It's his story.
Friends, what is your story? Are you struggling with an addiction? Have you felt the effects of someone else's addiction in your life?
Next week, I will share a very personal story about how alcoholism had a profound impact on my life.