In Puerto Rico the phone operators greet you with a 'hello love, how can I help you.' At least they greet me like that. People hug and kiss. The island has an ugly side of drugs and poverty, homelessness and apathy too, but there is also graciousness and lightheartedness. Dancing is a big part of life and extended family is more akin to immediate family. I was Cali-born like my late-father and my mother is Cuban, but I grew up in 'la isla del encanto.' I grew up in a very affectionate culture. Most of the teachers loved me and were great encouragers. They treated my like I was their child. People smile on the island.
Nonetheless, there is a horrible drug problem and the homeless situation is sad. Puerto Rico is like an Istanbul straddling the intersection of Latin America and Anglo-America. It is both a first-world land and a third-world country. It is a tale of two cities (Charles Dickens).
Tyrone Campbell is seventy one years old. A black man. He walks the streets of Fairfield County and lately South Norwalk. He has some 'stuff' in a friends storage unit in Bridgeport. He has buried his entire family. He is all alone 'with no direction home.' His hands are dry and leathery. Tears streamed down his face as I spoke and listened to him. "You are as important to the Lord as Bill Gates. It does not matter how 'society' makes the situation to be. God is not a respecter of persons."
"I got these snacks with a food stamp card I just got."
"Tyrone, you see this nice jacket? Don't let it fool you. Look at my shoes. I am a poor man. I recognize the Lord has blessed me all my life and the only way I know how to give thanks is to 'pay it forward. Tyrone? Where do you sleep? How do you get out of the cold?
"I go to the shelter down the street."
(Tears come down his eyes)
He sais to me, "I call one number and they give me another. I call that number and they transfer me to another. That one gives me another number and then the line goes dead."
"Tyrone? Sign this petition to revitalize the South Norwalk Community Center. I will not stop until we have a program to bring you hope. I will make sure of it and will not stop until it is so. I will not stop. I am here for you."
We hug. He signs the petition and takes the flyer. We say our goodbyes and I continue to canvas the street. Mr. Campbell continues his walk to the homeless shelter to get out of the cold.
This man has to create art from his heart to speak to the community and this will be one of the programs directed to the homeless at the South Norwalk Community Center in Connecticut.
For more, go to http://www.CoachBill.US