This morning, as I sat at a picnic table in Shipyard Park having something to eat, I began pondering where I could store two or three canvas bags that contain donated clothing and staple food. During the day, when I am traveling around, I need to stick to just two bags; going to the grocery store will produce a third bag by itself. And walking with extra baggage is to be avoided if possible.
One of the buildings on Water Street that abuts the park has a second-story deck, supported by four columns. Under the deck is open space. I saw one of the occupants coming out, and called to him.
“Excuse me, sir, may I ask you a question,” I said.
“Sure, what can I do for you,” he said.
I explained that I was hoping to store a few bags under his deck to keep them out of any rain, and out of view of passing miscreants. I told him that I only needed to store the bags during the day.
“Well, sure,” he said, “you can keep them there. We are going to be having some landscaping work done starting next week though.”
I thanked him for his kindness, and he asked me about my situation. I explained that I was homeless and now unable to use my car due to its revoked license plates, and that I needed almost $1,000 to make the car legal again.
“Well we can take care of that for you,” he said. “Only $1,000 to get you back in your car? Of course, we can do that today.”
I was awestruck by his casual, reflexive generosity.
I explained my impending housing application to him, and I marveled out loud at how suddenly everything was turning around for me.
* * *
I am still stunned as I write this. Chris returned about an hour later with a bank check for $839.61, the past due payment and one year’s insurance premiums. Since we use the same insurance company, he went to call his agent to find out how best to proceed.
Meanwhile, Chris ran into a friend of his, Town Moderator Jack Eklund, and mentioned me and my situation to him. Jack knew me from my reporting for the newspaper, and came over to offer his support. Jack said that he was a deacon at the Congregational Church in town. I told him that I had met with Amy Lignitz Harken, his pastor, just the other day, and that she was actively engaged in helping me. We talked about what a great listener Amy is, and Jack assured me that I was in good hands with Amy working on my behalf. Jack wished me well, gave me some cash and his business card, and went on his way.
* * *
Chris Demakis is an extraordinary person in that he took the time out of his Saturday to listen to my tale of woe, empathize with me, and then take action to help improve my living situation. In a time when we see the cynical far more than we wish, Chris and his husband Vince are putting themselves out there to help a total stranger who is in need of some help.
So too are Mitch Suzann and Mattapoisett Police Chief Mary Lyons, who are apparently spearheading the campaign to get me a subsidized apartment here in town. These actions of all these good people cause me to once again believe in the inherent goodness of people, and to put my cynicism in the basement, where it belongs.
* * *
Mitch just came by and I gave him the completed housing application. He said that he would get it filed with the Housing Authority on Tuesday. He left me a bag with some soap and towels and clothes.
August 20, 2011.