“I came here to die, it’s just not working out that well for me yet”, he says laughing. George will be 56 years old this month. He is originally from the east coast and has lived the last few years in the Fortuna/Arcata area where people there know him as “the General”. George was an orphaned child. His mother died when he was young, and his father was not a part of his life. George’s younger brother died several years ago. He is a veteran and served in the military as a young man. George has been homeless off and on for nearly 30 years.
I was sitting on a park bench on Sunday afternoon pondering life when George pulled up on his bicycle hauling a trailer full of his belongings and some cleaning supplies. He had a flat tire on his bike and one on his trailer also. I wanted to help him, but there were no stores open for tubes and he didn’t expect to be in the area the next day for me to return with tubes. I offered him an apple and he laughed showing off a toothless grin, “I have no teeth, do you have applesauce?” he asked.
George was a breath of fresh air after a long and stressful week. Although he complained a bit about being harassed by the cops for sleeping alongside the road and losing his window cleaning supplies while being harassed, he had a wonderful sense of humor. He revealed that he made money by cleaning people’s car and business windows. He travelled from town to town and made friends with other homeless folks along the way who usually offered him a safe place to spend the night in their encampments.
When I asked the reason for his homelessness he stated that it was because he was an orphan. He felt that many young people who are wards of the state find themselves homeless after they turn 18 when their foster parents no longer receive financial support to provide care for them.
I asked to take his picture, he gladly agreed and stated that he was already a celebrity as many people had taken his picture during his travels across the states.
George didn’t ask me for anything. He didn’t ask for money, food, or a place to stay. When we finished our conversation, I shook his hand, thanked him for his time, and wished him well. I was touched by this man “The General”. He accepted life on life’s terms, treated me with respect, and warmed my heart with his sarcastic humor.
So many untold stories, we all have them. Each of us has traveled a different path. If we would only sit and listen, be still awhile. What a simple gift to give.
Hand Up, Not Hand Out. Start the Conversation.