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John Records On His Work With Homeless People

Anytime we see an adult who is homeless, we can think about the child they once were and what might have happened to them. Anytime we see somebody who is pushing a shopping cart and talking to themselves or apparently drunk on the sidewalk, we know they didn’t start out that way. They were once every bit as adorable as any other child; there was every bit as much hope in their eyes, every bit as much beauty in them as in our own children. Something happened to them, probably something awful, probably more than once, that broke them and brought them to their sorry state. They were once children who didn’t get a fair break. So let’s honor who they were. Let’s at least give them a fair break now.

Essays, Memoirs, & True Stories

Future Zarahs

The Peace Corps doesn’t send volunteers to the countries where we work, those anarchic Fourth World places where the globalization beast barely pauses to wipe its lips — places like Sierra Leone in 2004.

The Things We Say When We Say Goodbye

There was a point, during the disaster, when everybody thought that the hurricane had passed and the worst was over. Then the levees broke — not from storm surge, engineers now think, but because the soil beneath the concrete walls was too weak. Nobody was there to help when the water started rising — a foot a minute in some places, I’ve been told.

Judgments

When I was sixteen, Father and three of his friends bought a huge swath of Willamette River bottomland, and we became, overnight, the largest asparagus growers in the Pacific Northwest.

Fiction

Mrs. Bernadette

Once, Mrs. Bernadette described the effect to me: “Have you ever seen a crow in flight, and you saw its feet pulled up under it as it rowed itself to wherever it was going? When I get the laughing gas, I feel like those helpless feet being carried along underneath that beautiful bird. It’s nice to let something else take over for a while. The world is too much with us.”

Photography

Photographing The Ninth Ward

I drove into New Orleans’ Ninth Ward a year and a half after Hurricane Katrina had left it in ruins. Friends who had been there had told me the devastation was “unbelievable.” I wondered what that meant — unbelievable.

Readers Write

Porches

Neil Young albums, a tetanus shot, Dilly Bars

Personal Stories By Our Readers ▸
Sy Safransky's Notebook

September 2008

No complaining that I wasn’t consulted when they wrote the laws of impermanence. No complaining that actual mileage varies from decade to decade, no matter how many vitamins I take.

Musings From Our Founder ▸
Quotations

Sunbeams

The ideal of happiness has always taken material form in the house, whether cottage or castle; it stands for permanence and separation from the world.

Simone de Beauvoir

More Quotations ▸
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