Parting Ways at the Crossroads

There has been a sadness around me lately. As many of you know, we lost a family member, our long time vendor Fred Boykin. And as I sit here writing this column I’m thinking of his positive spirit despite all the obstacles in his way.

I wish I could be more like he was, now as I fight my own personal battles with my own health both physically and, yes, mentally. It’s no secret that I have been battling kidney disease for quite some time due to my diabetes. This past summer and fall I’ve seen my share of ER visits, hospitalizations, and surgeries. Recently, I caught a really bad staph infection, from which I am slowly recovering. Needless to say these things have taken a toll.

I’m usually pretty resilient when it comes to these things, but even that has its limits. I’m not broken, I’m not having a case of “poor me,” and I neither want nor need pity. But I am tired, and a little depressed, and I’m beginning to question everything. I’m even beginning to question my own activism, which as you know is my life. I’m starting to wonder if it’s all worth it.

I see the division. I see the cruelty of one person to another. I see a never ending battle to end homelessness and poverty, and I see human rights slowly taken away by corporations and politicians. There’s so much hate. I read social media posts everyday and see people not bonding but bullying one another. I see all of this and say, why bother?

I live in a city where the rich are celebrated with skyscrapers for them to live in. I see entire neighborhoods upended for the sake of progress, while the poor fight for scraps and are forced out of their communities, where they have lived most of their lives. There just seems to be no end to it.

I found myself the other day walking around my adopted hometown and I reveled in the peace and quiet. No yelling, no screaming, no police sirens, no protests, no people on a subway fighting over seats and standing room and I thought, “when I do recover, do I really want to rejoin all that madness? Fighting for something I may never attain? Should I just stay right here? Should I just walk away and not care anymore?”

Yes, people say you have to stay and fight, and that we care about you, but do they mean that? Or are the just being nice? Maybe I want to be left alone.

That’s where I’m at, boys and girls. A crossroads, so to speak. Though I still try to hold on to hope, and I think of Fred: the smile, the gratitude of everyday, the joy he took in selling papers to his customers, who loved him dearly and showed him not pity but kindness. I will hang on to that.

Rest easy my friend.

James Shearer

James Shearer is a writer and co-founder of Spare Change News.

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