July 8, 2011


An early walk through the park brought me to the tree where, months ago, I saw a homeless man sheltering from a May shower (Blog: 5/9/2011). At the time, all his possessions were gathered in a plastic bag, which he carried in a shopping cart. Today, he was keeping cool beneath that same tree but the shopping cart was gone. In its place was a bicycle with a large pair of saddlebags slung from either side. In the world of bottle and aluminum collectors, he seemed to have gone up in the world.

(courtesy: classicthrift.com)

He didn’t see my approach. When I said, “good morning,” he didn’t seem to hear me, either. He was reading one of the free, community newspapers avidly, as if he were a stockbroker studying a report on a faltering economy. For all I knew, he did own stocks. One hears of the occasional recluse who dies and leaves a million dollars to a university. But I doubted this was the case. Of course, he could be a well-educated man down on his luck. In my novel, “Heart Land,” there is a hobo, one taken from life, who, with his degree in physics, opens new worlds to the eyes of a young boy.    

As I walked on, I continued to think about this man, sitting alone under a tree, engrossed in his newspaper. Absurd as it may seem and despite the state of our schools, I felt proud of my country. A free education is a right granted to every individual who resides here, regardless of economic station. That is a wonderful gift the nation gives to itself.

I hope after the guns and the armored tanks and helicopters are brought home from Iraq and Afghanistan, we’ll remember that democracy thrives best when literacy also thrives. I hope we’ll choose books and not bullets as we consider how to invest in our country’s future.