Peggy Barnhardt: Winning is crucial

Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 15, 2018

Peggy Barnhardt

While still working, I was approached by an old man. He had the fragrance of the street. His severely run-over shoes made his gait unsteady but predictable. A clopping sound with a rhythmic dip accompanied his entrance. His clothes were worn, as was his skin, both wrinkled from old age. A slanted smile, soon to straighten, was present.
He leaned into the bank teller station nose to nose, as if to gain a hearing from only one, and laid down his transaction: a sweepstakes certificate that implied his win. It looked like a check, but its disclaimer was clearly printed: “Non-Negotiable.”
Not understanding what he had, he proceeded to say, “I want to cash this. I need to pay bills and buy groceries.” His speech was barely understandable but his intensions were clear. He continued, “I am hungry.”
I asked when he had last eaten. “Two days ago, and I have no food at home,” he replied. His head now cocked to the side, out of the shadow cast by the sun across his stingy brimmed hat, exposed his gray-white whiskers, and the sincerity on his face. I explained the legality of this situation as his countenance fell.
I asked him about his family and his means of support, to no avail. It was the same story I had heard before — too little money, too many days in the month — a reality that many elderly people face constantly.
I and another kind customer offered him a meal and sent him to Burger King, but we knew this was just a bandage on an open wound. We were glad this was the second of the month and that his check would be arriving the next day.
This incident happened 19 years ago in my youthful vigor. It was a passing thought then. Now I am the gray-haired senior dependent on government dispensation (Social Security) and I wondered what changes have come over the years concerning the homeless/hungry in Rowan County. Statistics say, “Very little.” Experience confirms it.
I was just summoned by a man packing a spray bottle and a rag asking to spruce-up my tires for food money in Aldi’s parking lot. He was willing to work, and my tires were dirty — a perfect match. I could probably have used more services, but the fear of being victimized keeps personal assistance from strangers at a minimum.
My research found that 18 percent of Rowan County residents are at or below poverty level; 10 percent of this number are elderly, over 65 years, according to American Fact Finder and others.
Disturbingly, this information was listed in the category of Subpopulation, which somehow seemed to dehumanize the group as if they were some other species. This type of terminology, along with the stereotypical reasoning for such economical conditions, makes their plight difficult to remedy. A change in thought and heart is needed.
Remember financial upset can hit anyone of us. Nothing is surefire.
Think about it.

Peggy Ann Barnhardt lives in Salisbury.

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