Have a Great One!
Learning about homelessness through relationship
In 1998, Laurie Anthony took a year off from teaching. She and her husband T.J. moved from Columbus Ohio to Manhattan so that their son Joey could attend the Professional Performing Arts High School.
Laurie reveled in exploring New York and people watching. After a lifetime of donating to the needy and working with her students to do the same, she was face to face with homeless people. Forming a friendship with J.C., a charming panhandler on the corner of Seventh Avenue and 57th Street, Laurie began to research homelessness. She and J.C. began this book as a joint project to tell the world J.C.'s story, and through him, the story of homelessness. The project transformed both their lives.
This is a story of healing through relationship. Both J.C. and Laurie make journeys that take them from fear and isolation to a greater sense of responsibility for their world.
It is also a thorough discussion on homelessness, far more clearly and in far less room (198 pages) than any of the other treatises I have read over the years: from who the homeless are, why they are homeless, what shelters are like, what programs really work, and where you can find out more information.
Laurie Anthony is a remarkable person to start with, possessing the investigative skills to seek the truth about homelessness and about J.C.; the emotional skills to confront both her fears and J.C.'s; a patient compassion with herself, her own family, J.C., and everyone else she meets with in the course of this book.
"My time spent with J.C. was a learning experience for me. Relating to someone who had a unique perception of reality, and finding ways to form a genuine relationship in spite of that, was an ongoing challenge. Many of my feelings surface feelings of anger, frustration and powerlessness, but once I accepted his reality as his own, I was able to return to genuine compassion. My struggle was a difficult one, but I finally felt at peace with myself."
Laurie's patience did not extend to dealing with the traditional publishing world, and she published this book herself. She has a website http://www.anotherwaytohelpthehomeless.com/ which not only markets this book, but also presents information about homelessness and ways to help, reviews other books, assists networking, and grows daily.
J.C.'s story is not a simple one, but as Laurie unfolds it we can recognize, as she does, that although we all make bad choices at times, we all made the best choices we could.
"The story I did get from J.C,, although incomplete, was more than just words. His story was about the resiliency of the human spirit and mind when faced with difficulties. It was about human weakness and pain and the importance of forgiving ourselves for our imperfections. And mostly, it was about the goodness that lies deep inside us, even when our clothes are tattered and our emotions are troubled. That goodness, that pure state of unselfish love, is the cord that holds us all together. I found it in J.C. and he found it in me."
Pain and punishment seldom forces people to make better choices; with love and support, we can make better choices. J.C. got love and support from Laurie, and from others; he also receives 50% of the profits from the sale of this book. He has been in an apartment for a year.
Laurie Anthony is currently working on a children's book, "Saturday's Cups", the story of a young girl and her mother who go into the city each Saturday to visit their homeless friends. She is also collecting notes for a book continuing the story of "J.C. and me."
previously published in Real Change, circulate at will with attribution
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