A couple of weeks ago, I did a termite job at a public housing complex somewhere in the Wyoming Valley. And for the purposes of this mostly needless exercise, the exact location does not matter as all subsidized public housing complexes are mirror images of each other.
As my many painful experiences often remind me of, and as do the current editions of the extremely vulnerable folks being warehoused simply because they have no other realistic options available to them, being at the bottom of the social and economic strata looking up does not make for bright futures for the youngest, the most unsuspecting participants of the best “safety nets” that the entire world has to offer.
At this point in my life, I care not why the multitudes of single mothers ended up being relegated to the American gulags, as most of them have made their own beds, so to speak: They are under-educated, they threw their legs open all too often, they trusted the wrong prince charming or they are physically unable to seek gainful employment. As a matter of fact, I think I just described my mother as well as anyone could.
What I do care about are those smiling young faces, those exuberant young souls filled with life that have probably been dealt the worse hand that fate could have shuffled out…namely, the kids.
I do a freaking ton of work in public housing projects simply because slab-on-grade construction equals termite activity. And every time I spend an entire day in any of these many government-subsidized warehouses, I find myself blowing off the vacuous concerns of the entitlement-numbed adults, while inviting the kids to have their bicycles repaired or at least tuned-up.
Thing is, when a welfare mom buys her kid the best bicycle that Wal-Mart has to offer (which they all do), just as soon as a tube goes flat, that new bicycle is usually parked on the 4-foot-wide back slab of a patio never to roll again. And surely--over time--to be riddled with debilitating, often fatal rust.
For the most part, moms do not repair flats. Moms are not usually good with tools. And most of the moms dominating the public housing landscape have no tools to speak of. They lack cans of WD-40. No adjustable wrenches. No expertise.
A couple of weeks ago while at that aforementioned site, I happened upon a little boy who’s face was marred by asphalt as he had rolled his new bike back-over-front. This kid had wrecked as bad as anyone could possibly wreck. His front brake caliper was bent out of shape, his handle bars were loose and drooping and his front tire was way, way out of true. Still, though, there he was trying to ride the thing best he could. Tough, little prick. Admirable.
So when I engaged the kid and told him I could quickly fix all that ailed his most prized possession, he was all ears and then his bike was mine to do with as I wished. Needless to say, I had that set of wheels back to 98% of what it was when it was rolled out of the big box store in no time, and I had me a new vertically-challenged friend. And before long, his comrades in poverty were lining their bikes up before me.
Today, I was playing the same game, only at a different location. Termites. Single moms. And little kids as far as the four eyes could see. And as per usual, there were kids riding bikes that would be best described as being in need of serious repair, serious adjustment or a decent burial.
A little girl wanted her handle bars raised. And her older brother bragged about how his bike was the sh*t. And the part of me that recalls what it was like, what it was like to depend on the goodness of the church, the surplus government cheese or the never-ending kindness of others had me looking to hook up with her for the remainder of the afternoon.
So when the tasks at hand were completed, when the last of the data was entered and uploaded, when it was time to roll, my head cocked back-and-forth as I searched the barren landscape for that little girl. Sadly (at least for me), she was nowhere to be found. I fired-up the F-250 and I rolled.
My point (as if I have one)?
The fast-expanding Fedrule Govmint can supply food, housing, medical care and “free” laptops to the poorest of America’s children. But what the great majority of the poorest of America’s children need is a father. Or at the very least, a caring father figure.
Moms, even the poorest of the moms, do what they can do. And us guys, we do what we can do. And no matter what any of that adds up to at the end of the day, kids desperately need the input and help of both of our conflicted camps.
Anyway, I’ve somehow become a mobile bicycle repair shop personified. And if that’s all I’ll ever have to offer to the growing numbers of kids that replaced the long-ago kids like me in the public housing projects, I’ll have to conclude that I’ve done next to nothing to help end what once put the world’s largest chip on my shoulders.
In conclusion, I’m fully capable and fully cognizant, but I’m simply not doing enough.
And I’m going to find a way to reverse that trend.
Any ideas? Anybody want in?