Tuesday, November 06, 2007

A Tragic Tale

The news made the round in whispers about town yesterday.

Dead, they said. For a long time. Not missed for weeks.

He was about 26.

You know him - or maybe someone like him. He lived across from the school in the more run-down community. Bill - not his real name, but I know his real name - was raised by his great-grandparents following who-knows what events that precipitated such an upbringing.

He attended the same schools as I did, though years later. He haunted the halls that my friends' children walked, played ball with them. I understand he was a slugger in the rec leagues, a fierce hitter, and a force on the basketball court.

He had no way to go to college. No money for that. On top of that he had epilepsy. Finding work was difficult.

He ended up at a retailer and a fast food joint. His great-grandparents passed away. He remained in their home, living without electricity.

He was one of the working poor. Right here in my town. He was a shadow, one of those people you see but don't see. You know someone lives in that house where the lights never shine, but ... it's not your business.

It should be our business, shouldn't it? Here in this county where you can't travel down any country road without running across a church? Where the Christian crowd is such that the churches have to spend their fortunes on bigger buildings and more ministers ... and not on those who might need a hand up?

Shouldn't we have done something?

I cannot believe it. To die and to lie for weeks before someone finally thinks to miss you. Can you imagine how that must've been? To be that lonely? No one to call. No one to cry out to? No one to hold at night? Not even a friend who's only a name on a blog.

Such sadness that must have entailed.

I did not know this young man personally; I never met him. But I feel guilty for his death all the same. I drove by his house. I saw but did not see.

I did nothing.

It's easy to think that this can't happen to you or to someone you know. So easy to believe that the entire world lives in your comfort zone. Reality is hard and difficult, dirty and dangerous and damned near enough to drive you insane if you think on it, so it's best forgotten.

But we need to think on it. In a land so full of wealth, how can we stand back and let one person go another day without meeting basic needs?

I don't know if this story will be told anywhere else besides here. Someone who actually knew Bill could certainly tell it better. I know the story is making the rounds locally, in whispers, with heads shaking and a few people resolving to do more.

How many deaths will it take, I wonder, before we all make that resolution?


  1. Very powerfully told. Thank you for sharing what you know of Bill. I hope we all learn from it.

  2. How tragic and so very sad. I've always thought there should be some sort of community "hotline" if you will, for those who live alone. Some sort of service whereby the person registers his name and number and just checks in every couple of days. If the service doesn't hear from them they could make a call and if they can't get in touch send out someone, or call local authorities, to just do a check. Who knows maybe the person was just injured and could have been saved instead of lying there dying for days.

  3. Very sad indeed. And Ms Elenaeous has a very good point.

  4. In my children's (formerly mine, too) community, there is a food bank that was absolutely bereft of food until we held a city-wide food drive.

    How many people does it serve?

    How many does it miss?


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