Saturday, November 17, 2012

JAY SMITH - "I'm not afraid of being homeless any more.


     Jay Smith grew up in New Jersey. His father died while he was still very young, and Jay attributes some of his problems to the fact that he grew up without a father figure.
     But even without a father figure, Jay had a lot of advantages while growing up. He went to a private school. Then he went to college at Randolph Macon on a football scholarship. He was a place kicker.
     Jay is forty nine years old. He’s been homeless for about a month now.
     He had been working at Walmart, and living with an elderly lady who had alzheimer’s disease. But one night, the elderly lady freaked out in the middle of the night. She forgot that she had rented a room to Jay, and called the police.
     The police asked Jay to move out. But they were able to get his rent money back for him.
     Jay lost his job at Walmart.
     A local man allowed him to stay in an old shack, in exchange for labor.
     For fourteen months, Jay worked about forty hours a week, with no pay, other than the privilege of sleeping in a drafty old shack that wasn’t legal for occupancy.
     When Jay finally couldn’t take it any more, he left.
     So, Jay says that at the moment, he’s actually homeless by choice.
     Jay admits that at times, he has had a bit of a drinking problem. He doesn’t do any drugs, and he has never been in any serious trouble with the law.
     He says that these days, he is not a heavy drinker... drinking only a couple of beers a day.
     "I put up with working for this other guy, in exchange for a shack to live in, because I was so afraid of being homeless.
     "Fear is the most powerful emotion.
     "Now, I’m homeless, and I’m happy.
     "I’ve been looking for work, but it’s really hard.
     "There’s a one-stop career center that has been a big help to me. It’s behind the Dodge Dealership.
     "Anybody who is serious about looking for a job should go there. Because it’s a great resource.
     "Of all the people who are at the Gathering Inn right now, there are only about three people who are honestly looking for work."
     Jay points to his friend, Wayne. "Wayne is one of them," Jay says. "And so am I."
     When I interviewed Jay’s friend, Wayne, about two weeks earlier, Wayne was trying to get a job as a bagger at Safeway. That job hasn’t come through for him. So Wayne is still trying to find a job.
     Wayne and Jay are both Christians, and they are both very spiritual.
     "The Lord must have felt that I needed some more humbling," Jay says. "Because here I am... homeless. But I’m not scared of being homeless any more."
     Jay has been married twice, and divorced twice. He has two children: a son, age 21, and a daughter age 22. Jay has never seen his daughter. His son lives near enough that he could see his son. But right now, his son doesn’t like him.
     The hardest part about being homeless for Jay is getting the time to do all the things that you need to do.
     "We homeless people spend most of our time standing in lines, just trying to get out of the cold," Jay says.
     "They give you one hour a day to work on a compute. But it isn’t enough time if you need to write up a good resume, or search for job openings. But I keep trying. I’m willing to walk three or four miles a day to get help with finding a job."
     If Jay had a magic wand, so that he could be or do anything, what would he be or do?
     "I’d like to go on a church mission, and travel around the world helping people. I could travel now, because I don’t have any ties here any more.
     "God has given me so many gifts. I can’t feel sorry for myself."
I ask Jay what gifts he would use if he were on a church mission.
     "My education, my computer training, my empathy. I’m good at working with senior citizens, and cancer patients.
     "I had a job for a while delivering equipment and supplies to Hospice Patients. Sometimes, I’d go into a person’s home, and while I was setting up the equipment for a person, I’d kind of get to know them. It’d be a nice guy, or a nice woman. So, I’d set up their equipment, like, maybe breathing equipment. And then, I’d leave.
     "But the very next day, that same person would be dead.
     "We’d go back to pick up the equipment, and sometimes, the person who died hadn’t lived long enough to even use the equipment.
     "They were alive one day, and I’d be talking to them, and the very next day, they were dead.
     "It hit me as a cold, hard fact that we’re not immortal. It was real. It wasn’t fantasy like the movies. It was death, and it was real."
     I ask Jay if he has a message for the world.
     "Be kind to others. It always comes back to you. It may not come back to you immediately. But it comes.
     "But when you do something good for someone else, don’t do it expecting a return. Because doing it that way is not Christ-like."
      I ask Jay what he believes makes him special and unique in the world.
     "Insight. I have the ability to see the truth... to see over fantasy, and into reality.
     "I can see people’s needs.
     "It sucks, not being able to help people when you see their needs.
     "When you are in this homeless situation, things don’t happen as quickly as you’d like. But I’m still working hard to get my life going again, and to get off the streets.
     "So far, I’ve submitted over a hundred job applications.
     "I don’t consider this to be a bad thing. The way that I look at it, for some reason that I don’t understand, this is a part of God’s plan for my life. Somehow, in some way, this will all end up being good for me."
     The day that I interviewed Jay was the Saturday before Thanksgiving.
     Jay says that he and his sister will be serving Thanksgiving Dinner to the homeless at one of the local churches. He’s really looking forward to it.

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