Where Thou Goest

I realized today that my dear sweet mother Ruth Naomi, was named by my grandparents after two migrant farm workers, the widow Ruth and her loving mother in law Naomi. They were gleaners who survived on what they accumulated after reaper’s harvest, so they lived a poor but contented existence. My mother taught in a school that had a group of Bracero (migrant farm worker) children, and like her name sake Ruth and Naomi, these beautiful children and their dignified parents were highly industrious and took pride in their labor. My mother’s only regret was that her wonderful Bracero Children; would have to do much of their learning after long periods of travel, or after a full day of labor and a meager dinner, sometimes studying by a small incandescent light bulb or flickering candle.

My mother came by her sensitivity and caring from her parents, whom along with her doting Navajo grandmother, and two brothers, who all tried to cope with living in the Depression era of the 1930’s. My grandfather (Cherokee and black) was a strong devoted quiet minister who knew, loved and morally followed the Holy Bible, my grandmother of black and Navaho extraction was equally of strong Christian character. My Grandparents lived by the verses in Proverbs 31:10 – 29, “Who can find a Virtuous Woman?, for her worth is far above that of Rubies!”, and by example used these passages to instill a strong Christ like work ethic in their three children, whom were expected to have love, compassion, and respect for all the Gleaners of the world (Ruth 2:16). My parents raised us children to be polite, industrious, generous, self sacrificing, and to exude a spirit of hopefulness to the disenchanted. Though we lacked many of life’s necessities we were never poor, later when God favored my family with material goods, we were able to help others like us. We were admonished to treat others like Boaz treated Ruth and Naomi, not only to give what we could afford to give, but more importantly protect the defenseless from those who wished them harm.

Often when I hear people taking about migrant labor, I wonder if they ever read The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck; about how poor white and black farmers and migrant workers, who spent years on the brink of starvation and ruin. President Herbert Hoover ordered General John J. Pershing, to forcibly subdue Bonus March Veterans protesting in 1932 in Washington D.C., instead of honoring America’s pledge to compensate these loyal American ex-soldiers, protestors were bludgeoned and shot at and their belongings and encampments destroyed. President Hoover refused to honor their plea for just promised compensation, veterans like the American farmers had been of invaluable service to this country, only to be ignored and abused at their time of dire need. Unfortunately the lessons of the Bible in the book of  James (James 2:2-13) of helping the poor and needy are often lost on church folk, who search for more inspiration and insight on the internet or Christian entertainment talk shows, and elect to believe the Benjamin Franklin saying, “God helps those, who helps themselves”.

People unwilling to help others often misrepresent the Bible scripture 2 Thessalonians 3:10, “If you don’t work, you don’t eat”, while I believe that the work of a true Christian believer is unrelenting Faith. I was taught that all my good works or deeds (Isaiah 64:6) are but filthy contaminated rags, that all the good and great things that I experience or accomplished are by God’s Grace(Ephesians 2:8, 9),  so I’m admonished to not boast or condemn others. One could say that you would have to physically toil and make money or barter to eat, but then also you might falsely that the reason most people are poor or homeless, is because they lazy or have some mental or physical defect.

When I first wrote this in 2009 I had a great home, really good health and no legal or societal problems, in short order I became homeless, plagued with related legal and financial upheavals, attacked by familiar people and even strangers, and five months later underwent five way C.A.G.B bypass surgery. My church and parishioners weren’t there for me, I only wanted my church family to be spiritually supportive and lift me up in their prayers, but unfortunately it was the holiday season and they were paradoxically preparing for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Family and friends did come to my rescue, people in the same or worse circumstance offered assistance, compassionate caring Christians and non-Christians lent me an ear ventilate and a shoulder on which to cry. I obtained instant empathy for our people who have been enduring this tragic lifestyle for years, and still trying to raise a family and stay one step ahead of all the catastrophes they see heading toward them from the horizon. Life then became one misfortune after another, it seemed like the poorer I got the more bills I incurred, I dressed and carried myself like a successful business person, but all the while fearful people would I carried the cursed mark of the homeless.

I had been unaware how dangerous it could be out there for people like me, I encountered and was even dependent for shelter on extremely functionally psychotic people, who use their offices or status in shelters twelve step style housing facilities to dominate and terrorize those they are charged to help. Because I became poor, homeless, and physically incapacitated, I was inducted into a lower taboo caste, I became painfully aware of how the American Outcasts were denigrated by society, in the press, and by our politicians. Even a year later after finally regaining some of my footing, I am still scared by the brutality and insensitivity of my American society, and am working on diminishing my guilt and sadness for those like me who are still grievously suffering. I fortunately have a good church family and have been in successful recovery since 1976, my loving family has cheered me on through all my crisis, and like all Americans in this present economy I’m having to gird my loins and hope for the best,

Morris Dees stated in a hate trial in Portland that, the worse thing about prejudice isn’t Believing something bad about someone, but Wanting to believe some bad about someone. The migrant workers, poor and homeless, addicts and recovery addicts, those on the list of Them Verses Us which includes me, will always be among us, but that doesn’t mean we cannot change our inhumane mistreatment of the less unfortunates.

Prejudice is a great time saver. You can form opinions without having to get the facts

– E.B. White

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4 Comments

  1. Querido amigo Jose Grecco,

    I have read your story and silence becomes part of me. So long, so far it is the time we used to talk, in another time, in the past far away it seems. Time is elusive and fluid, imagine how it is, now, we are in another time and another circumstance. I am glad you are writing, I remember you used to plan it and actually used to write, only this is the first time I read it; I hope you continue. Prejudice, injustice racism, poverty all is alive among us still. I must say, you were the first to teach me about these issues surrounding us, but, in those times, I was poorly prepared to clearly and totally understand it. Your story, that of your mom and family is one filled of pain and hope; there are many who employ their time to help rise awareness and create change. And there are changes being created, only not fast enough. Continue writing amigo, thank you.

    Reply

    1. Sent you an email but it was un-deliverable

      https://mrjosegreco.wordpress.com/2012/08/22/but-im-only-a-child/

      How Jose Got His Name:(Sent To Family)

      When I was in Temple, Texas, my first jobs was as a counselor for Temple Mental Health Mental Retardation; mental health counselor, alcohol and drug treatment counselor, senior citizen advocate, crisis intervention specialist. Later I was a night janitor at the ELKS, cleaning after hours two bars and two bathrooms; they hired me on probation, but I cleaned the women’s restroom spotlessly and left a red rose on the basin… the women demanded I be hired permanently. Then I got a job as an assistant curator at the Central Texas Cultural Activities Center http://www.museumsusa.org/museums/info/1167615 ; fancy title – swept floors, cleaned the various arts and crafts rooms, setup the stage for performances, bar-tended at patron functions, hung up Pictures as large as me by by myself, and did the sound and the lights for stage performances.
      We had a special dance group come to CAC, Jose Greco Flamenco Dance Group, my job was preparing the stage by placing unseen marker strips of tape on stage, so the dancers would know where to move,and I would work the spotlight and sound which was easy because I knew all about flamenco and my hero who would be performing that night. As I was “blocking the stage” on my knees Maestro Jose Greco came on the stage, we kept working while the Maestro familiarized himself with the stage, I was shocked and a little nervous about doing a good job that evening.
      Went home, got all ready for that evening in my casual clothes for running the system, but packed up my best suit for when we would be introduced to Jose Greco after the performance, thank God everything went perfectly and the audience loved the performance. Audience members came on stage to be received by Maestro Greco, then staffers were presented by the curator, when it was my turn I was very surprised by the outcome. Because I was well dressed and walked toward him with correct posture and deliberate steps, he immediately asked me, “Are you a dancer?”, my boss corrected him and said the I was the one who had done the blocking and run the system. In a kind soft surprised voice Maestro Greco restated,” By your posture and the manner in which you walk, I assumed you were a dancer, have you had formal training?.”
      “No”, I embarrassing replied. “Well” thank you for doing such a wonderful job with the lights following me on stage, and properly cueing the music.” Have you had any experience with Flamenco before?”
      I told him that after my father had left the home and I had some tragic experiences, I looked for some things to fill the void, books, art music, and I discovered Flamenco its philosophy and important links to the dance community. That I had read all his books and practiced on my own, and when faced with threatening situations, straightened up to full height and walk with a sense of dignity and pride. More than I wanted to say, feared he’d be “amused” by my adulation, but what he said was, “Thank you”, can
      we please talk after the reception?”. I thanked him and cheerfully said “Yes”, but that scared me even more, I had run out of words and what more can you say to a hero?
      Later when things died down he sought me out, and I said, “hello Maestro”, and he gently replied,”Jose”, and that was my greatest fear, that someone whom in many way had become a father figure replacement, would accept me as an acquaintance and treat me so warmly. Then “Jose” said, “First I want to give you my card, I have underlined the office number of my foundation in New York, which is the easiest way to reach me. Also the home number and address of my good friends the Champions, whom I visit as often possible,and please call them if you ever need any help. “Secondly I wish to say, it as been an honor to meet you, and I want you to come and visit me in New york in the future, and I seriously mean this!”.
      I thanked “Jose” for his kindness, it was hard to look him in the eyes, thinking I may cry and later I did cry, this was too overwhelming. It was like being 8 years old again and wishing my daddy would come back home, then seeing him walk back up the stairs and greet me with that confident look that said, “I ‘m here for good, don’t worry about a thing”.
      I never called or visited Jose Greco or the Champions nearby, I kept his card in my pocket for years, and at times it helped me initially. Shortly after meeting my surrogate parent, I was able to send letters of amends and appreciation to all my family members. I was able to more fully accept dad as the best dad that he could be, not the idealized father I always wanted him to be. And when I can back home I had the full intention of being the best family member I could be, and not hard on myself because I fell short of my goal. I was now two years sober, and I had survived a bitter cold Texas winter living on borrowed German Black Break and water, I was 30 years old and had my whole life before me, and what could go wrong?… well, that’s another story.

      Reply

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