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.
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.
I am compelled to leave every few months with my backpack and cameras and a ticket to some distant place. I travel as simply as I can, with a tent, a sleeping bag, some cooking gear, and small gifts to give to people I befriend along the way. I am drawn in particular to the indigenous peoples of the world and their vanishing customs. They have taught me groundedness, humility, wisdom, and authenticity.
The cold glass jar felt good in my pudgy seven-year-old hands. It had once been filled with hard candies wrapped in brightly colored cellophane, a gift from one of my dad’s clients. Sitting on our back deck on a Colorado summer afternoon, I wondered what I should fill the jar with now that all the candy was gone.
It didn’t occur to me until recently that if I’d seen my mother and Al going to the graveyard, then Miss Lottie had seen them too. Anyway, one day Miss Lottie called me “trash.” I was ringing up her wine, Mogen David 20/20. People call it “Mad Dog.” It’s cheap and strong, and Miss Lottie bought it at least three times a week.
Halfway through the first day, we passed an army caravan. Father said they were going to the Sierra Maestra mountains to kill Fidel Castro, “the enemy of Fulgencio Batista and General Motors.” I knew nothing then about Batista’s dictatorship and Castro’s attempts to overthrow it.
I have walked the few blocks down to the pond on campus tonight because I read in the paper that some Buddhists from the local sangha are going to free the souls of a lot of people who were bombed at Hiroshima.