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02 December 2009

Girl on a Bus

Just the two of us riding on the bus last week while the cold wind gusted and the smell of rain announced the end of the Indian Summer in Austin. She was in her mid to late twenties, kind of pretty, dressed a little on the shabby side which tended to blend with the tattoos. She talked-- downright chatty, just a hair shy of boisterous and there was no escape, I was the only one there.

She spoke about how cold it got and how suddenly it came; about what a pleasant day it had been, and the fun she had with friends in the park; how she had drank quite a bit and felt good and happy because of it, and how she hoped it would help her fall asleep although she felt very energetic.

The route was headed downtown, and that late at night, it was common for a twenty-something, (often tattooed, and almost always pretty) girl to ride alone on the route on her way to a job tending bar on or near Sixth Street. Those in the little black dresses would be off to waitress, those in more casual and at least as revealing attire, probably to be pulling beer until closing, and those, like the one on the bus that night, pulling beer or backing the bar at some rock club. That is what I assumed she was off to do before she said she was hoping to get to sleep soon.

"Off work for the day?"
"Yeah, kind of between jobs. I'm going to wish I had a tent tonight."
"Oh no. You're camping?"

Camping does not mean in a state park-- it means in a homeless camp. In the old days, it would be a hobo camp. Same thing, but rarely transported by train. In Austin, the police are known to raid the camps on occasion and seem to have used "King of the North (Pole)" and Shack's character as a training film. I am thinking of the well known "David." A well read homeless man.

Several years back, I was riding the number three bus north from the UT campus area, up to the woodworking place to sell woodworking tools supplies and teach classes on the aspects of the work I was particularly good at. My brother used to take the bus from his home in Dallas to his IBM office in Irving, and told me how the best part was that he spent his commute time reading books. Taking his lead, I was re-reading Shakespeare's, "Henry V."

Over my shoulder, the homeless man, full beard, unwashed hands, spoke to me.
"Have you gotten to Henry's speech yet?"
"'Once more into the breach?'" I asked.
"Yes. I saw you reading that and started trying to come up with the Saint he mentions."
"Saint Crispin."
"Ah. Yes, 'We were there on Saint Crispin's Day.'"

David is brilliant, pleasant, and in the southern idiom I like to use, "just good people." I knew it before the end of that thirty minute bus ride. We chatted the whole way. Then I saw him on that same bus either to or from work at least twice a week. I went to my storage unit soon after meeting him and when I ran across the rest of my little Shakespeare paperbacks, I tossed two in my backpack that David mentioned as being his favorites. He had told me how he once had a good library, and most important and dear to him, a manuscript he had been working on. He also mentioned missing having a Bible. All of it was stolen from his low rent, subsidized living.

David didn't connect the dots for me, but I connected them in this way. He was on the downward slide, no body in his family, friends, or work-associates noticed, or those who noticed did nothing but watch. He went from slide to freefall. Having never been homeless, without two nickle to rub together and hungry, David sought out help using some of the civic resources available.

Over a time, he got set up with taking free meals with others who had fallen on bad times, persons allowed to freefall. Most were despondent. In their despair, most had turned to drugs; and whatever they made, while not good enough to afford a room, were enough to score a virtual vacation from life for the time that the cocaine lasted in their system. David admits to having addiction problems, but he did try hard to stay clear of drugs and alcohol when he first found himself on the street. Like most, he thought his time on the street would be a few days, maybe a few weeks; and then he would climb back out and start anew in life.

Very few ever climb out.

Once homeless, a person can go to the ARCH (Austin Resource Center for the Homeless). You can get a cot, a card showing your where at least one free meal a day can be had, maybe a bus-pass to help you get around for job interviews. So far, so good if you ignoring that most of these job interviews were to dress up like the Statue of Liberty and beckon persons driving by into a tax office. They'll get $10.00 for each hour they do this. The real problem, one soon learns, is that if you want to bathe for a job interview or a new fond job, you can only do that between 3 PM and 5 PM.

So, you get the job, and after two days working 8-5, you begin to smell. No one wants to hire you if you smell. You cannot work and bathe if you stay at the ARCH-- you can only do one or the other. Hey, rules are rules. So, anyone who doesn't want to give up, will sleep in the woods, bathe in a creek and dress out of a backpack. The homeless know this and, presumably, the civic aid organizers know this, too.

Summers are hell because the creeks stop running, and winters are hell because the creeks are so cold bathing is painful. David did this. He kept trying, he kept working. Most people give up at the point when they realize they are working full time, and they are still homeless.

Not David, but many find it like this: You climb out of your sleeping bag (assuming it hasn't been found by a hobo and stolen), dip a towel in the creek water and clean up as best you can. Brush your teeth with brush and paste in your dop kit in your back-pack (assuming it was not stolen with your bedroll-- a homeless person knows not take their bedroll to work with them-- so they hide them in the woods), put on your work-clothes and take the change you saved and walk to the nearest bus stop and head downtown to get food.

If a Mobile Loaves and Fishes truck shows up, you can get breakfast, otherwise you go hungry while at work. Or, if you don't work, you can go to one of the places on the card the ARCH gave you, and take a the correct bus for the correct day of the week and go have a satisfying lunch. If you chose to work instead of eat, you may have $40.00 in your pocket by lunch time. Day labor, and Statue of Liberty type stuff may front you some money, if the boss is understanding. So you can go to McDonald's for a meal and buy a cup of coffee and still have $30.00 dollars left over.

If you can get your own street corner, you will do much better panhandling. In no case, will you earn enough for a deposit and first and last months rent and the electrical deposit required for renting an apartment. For those paid by check, taxes come out and if any child support is part of one's responsibility all of the check may be garnished to pay the child support. The government can, does, and will take all of your earnings if the government wants it-- no concern about your eating on that end. What are the homeless going to do? Hire a lawyer? Ha! Nope, once one falls below the affording a lawyer level of income, the 14th Amendment ceases to be a right.

Child support fathers who are homeless must work for cash-- because otherwise they work 40 hours a week and take home something like $11.00 a week to live on. That is in the "best interest of their children" according to the divorce papers.

Personally, I lived in my car, and worked 30 hours a week as an accountant for an institution of the State of Texas. I then worked 20 hours a week selling woodworking equipment and supplies to contractors and hobbyists. I also worked (borrowing a car, since the one I lived in had broken down) so I could continue work as an ordained Priest serving as a hospital chaplain. one or two nights a week as a PRN (on call). I used the bus system and my bicycle for commute except for the night chaplain work, when I had to be able to get to either hospitals within 30 minutes in the middle of the night when the bus system was not running.

To bathe and change, I had a membership at a gym, and swam laps in a pool, used the showers there, changed clothes and headed out-- every morning. No one knew I was homeless. I looked good enough, had clean clothes, and was clean myself. I learned to hang out in a neighborhood pub near my accounting job at night, because I had access to a bathroom until closing time. Then I walked to my car parked on a side street, crawled in when no one was looking, hung towels across the back windows and with the back seat folded down to make a flat surface all the way into the trunk, slid into a sleeping bag.

In the winter, I was okay, but did wake with frost on my hair and the inside windows glazed with ice on several occasions. In the summer, I bought a bag of ice, and kept that in a Styrofoam ice chest with a towel. I would wipe myself down with the ice cold water and sleep until the heat woke me and then cool off again.

In the mornings, I would wake, dress very slowly so as not to make the car shake and give away my presence, then slide to the front seat to look as if I had just parked there. When the coast was clear, I would get out, with my backpack, walk to where I had chained my bicycle, nearby, and ride to the gym. After a shower and shave and a breakfast taco, I would walk into the office ready to go. After work, I would eat as many calories as possible for the money I had, then using cycle and bus combined, would go to the second job. I'd get off around 9:30, and cycle all the way "home," (because the last bus had already run before I was able to get to the bus stop) straight to the little pub, to read, write, and sip beer until closing. Then, I ended each day with the horror of sneaking into my car parked about half a mile away to start the whole thing over.

Of course, when I was not in public view, I was left alone with my thoughts of the family I once had, especially my children who had disappeared with my ex-wife. I prayed, and I cried. God was with me, and let me know it when I needed to know it-- sometimes in beautiful, intimate ways.

I had insurance through the state accounting job, and after a year of homelessness, noticed that I could not gain muscle mass no matter how hard I tried. I cramped every time I went swimming, and was beginning to cramp every time I rode my bicycle. Something was wrong and, fearing the worse, I went to see a doctor.

The doc ran all of the tests and assumed exactly what I assumed: that it would be cancer. I week later, the tests were back and I was told that I was in the best physical shape I had ever been in, and simply could not consume enough calories to fuel my life-style-- swimming and cycling, that I was malnourished and due to to living in the elements I simply required more fuel than I could afford to consume. My net income, after child support garnishment, was less than $600 a month working three jobs for nearly 70 hours a week.

The wealthy physician offered a novel solution. He said he had some friends who would appreciate a healthy body such as mine and pay well. That I did not kill the son of bitch right then and there in his office is something I sometimes regret. The look on my face shut him up, and I gather he realized how close to death he was at that moment. I walked out, quit the two jobs which the Attorney General knew about, and went full-time on a job they did not know about and so could not garnish my wages. I tripled my income working for the lowest paying job alone and cutting my hours from 70 to 40. Does that seem right to anyone?

Six months later, my Priest-- one of only two people besides that sick physician who knew I was homeless-- contacted me to let me know he knew of a room for rent and had already contacted the owner on my behalf. I ended my fifteen month stint on the street. I made it without a drug habit, without an alcohol habit, and with a disgust of moneyed people who are in a position to help, but instead choose to prey upon the poor. I made it with my faith in tact, my spirituality in its highest form of my life. I also had made some very good friends.

Not knowing where my children were, or how to contact them was the Hell which predominated (and does to this day) my life. But God did not leave me alone in my pain and agony. Like the doctor, prowling lions, seeking someone to devour; the State Attorney General's office and the courts are no different. At the exit interview with the state job, I told the HR rep my story-- and she is the one who suggested I quit my job and work "under the radar" to support myself. She also called CPS on my ex-wife, saying that, based upon what I told her about the abuse she dealt out to me when married and the horror stories my children had told, she had a legal obligation to do so. That of course aggravated the situation-- because once CPS learned it was an abusive female, they were not interested, and that abusive female then learned she was above the law. But, the law is the law.

Of course, when my ex- realized the money stopped arriving (while I lived in my car, she had bought a beach house) there was Hell to pay.

I had filed for enforcement of my visitation rights (having joint custody) and adjustment of child support. Imagine how long it took to save the $1,400.00 this cost me in legal fees! Consider being malnourished and choosing to forgo a meal to save up for legal fees. I did that until it literally threatened to kill me. Consider the agony of a father eating regular meals againand each bite tasting like the blood of his own children! The legal maximum of this state's child support is 25%, and I was having 55% garnished and 30% in tax off the top, leaving me only 20% of my earnings as "take home." The courts refused to schedule a hearing, and that is when I went homeless, and that is where it remained when I crawled up off the street by earning a living on unreported income.

I had pulled one of my own teeth on more than one occasion during those homeless days. It is not as bad as the movie Castaway might leave you to believe-- the pain which causes you to do it is that bad, but the actual act is survivable, and the relief is immediate-- endorphins kick in and the source of the original pain is removed with the tooth. I recommend bourbon. Then, I was able to get a loan and make payments on some corrective surgery. It looked like shoddy work, and I looked mean and angry because of a false jaw-line that I could not afford to have fixed. I was angry, just not mean. That false look got me in a few fights-- a facial expression I could not change, and so didn't feel like explaining nor apologizing for when mistaken for something else. I broke my hand, but that was nothing knew. My ex-wife had broken my finger in one of her episodes, and no one has ever worked me over like she did --on an almost nightly basis.

Somewhere along the way, I had lost my ability to be afraid. Being poor, hungry and homeless taught me I could survive anything. It toughened me, not my heart, but my body; and then proved to me that I could survive anything-- no matter the pain. Without fear, you just don't care about pain. I don't miss fear, and I don't miss the pain; but it bothers me that with the fear also went self-preservation. Without self-preservation being kicked in by fear, you find you really do not care what happens to you, except maybe on an intellectual basis. Reconciling that is tough, but possible; and once reconciled, one's spiritual life is in excellent shape-- where it is supposed to be.

Meanwhile, my new landlady saw an add in the paper for bus drivers with Capital Metro, and recalled that I had told her of moonlighting as a school bus driver back when I was a parish priest serving a poor mission which could not afford to pay me the minimum stipend of a Priest. That is what good fathers do for their children-- be they real children or spiritual children.

I applied and was accepted. Just before starting there, full time and again having insurance, I received notice of a hearing on my child support in Galveston. I borrowed a car and went down to Galveston.

It was three visits in total to Galveston to meet with the Attorney General and ultimately the judge. The first meeting was at an AG office near Galveston. They had sent me a notice requesting me to bring certain documents, and included a flyerstating that they would help with enforcing my visitation rights. I was excited.

An hour in that office, I had provided all of the financial documentation, and the case manager was very upset that my claim was correct-- that the AG had forced me into poverty by taking more than twice what was legally allowed to take from me-- and had done so for over two years. She was in no mood to offer reparations, reducing my child support to make up for what I had been forced to overpay. All she could do, from her predatory standpoint, was recommend lowering my child support to the maximum and delay the order being signed by a judge for as long as possible. The enforced poverty would continue as long as she could make it continue. In turn for her brand of "justice," I kept my mouth shut about my new "on the radar" job I was starting.

I then asked about my visitation rights being enforced. She refused to give me their address. I showed her my divorce decree making it clear that I had joint custody, specific visitation weekends and days throughout the year, and pointed out that I could not be with my children since my ex- had moved out of jurisdiction of the court without the court's permission and in doing so, she had violated court order.

The AG worker sharply slapped my file closed and said she would not submit a request for lowering my child support if I asked about my visitation again. Tears leaked from eyes. I was alone and with a monster who could hurt me and wanted to. The excitement and hope I had on the way to this meaning evaporated-- I was not getting my children back. I shook with grief and tears flowed. She stood up, and walked into the hall, saying over her shoulder, "I'll give you a minute."

I struggled to pull myself together, and as I did, heard her laughing-- laughing, mind you-- in the hallway with her co-0workers that I was in her office crying. Her co-workers all laughed with her, seeking someone to devour as they were.

A couple of months later, I had a hearing with a judge and was expecting the reduction of child support and then sought to bring up my three year old motions filed with that court for enforcement (and amendment) of my visitation.

Here is how that actually went...

The judge calls my ex- and myself up to stand before the bench. He announces the case, and says, "I see Mr. Giles has not made child support payments in several months. Mrs. Giles, can you think of any reason why I not throw your ex-husband in jail for failure to pay?"

My ex-wife, also seeking someone to devour, smiled with satisfaction and began stuttering something about my not paying anything if I was in prison. However, a commotion erupted to my right and it was a lawyer with the Attorney General's office-- one I recognized, interrupting the judge and hurrying to the bench with papers scattering.

"Your Honor! The Office of the Attorney General is in agreement with Mister Giles." The judge paused to let her explain an show him the documents."

Trying to rescue my children was going to get me thrown in prison. I was a hair's breadth away.

That was the same woman with the OAG I had met months before-- not the nasty clerk laughing about my crying, but from another time in court. I think it was the third time I had showed up for a hearing on the motions I had filed only to find that the OAG had convinced the judge to cancel said hearing after I appeared and was ready. I knew what they were doing and why. To her cohort, I explained that I was aware and would persist until I had him in prison for contempt of court.

In a private room, the judge directed me to meet with the OAG representative instead of before his bench. I had done this once before, so I knew the game this time. He coldly demanded I pay back child support-- the money I had stopped paying when I quit my official job to take undocumented an unreported work so I could survive, physically.

I answered what questions were to my advantage to answer and taunted him that the other answers I would only provide before the judge. He asked why. I said, "Because you know that if my answers ever get to a judge's ears, that you and your ilk are going to have to answer to it-- and I am not telling you anything about how much I know, because you will go to prison for it if it the last thing I do. Right now, you do not know what I can prove and what I can't, and your questions are only directed at finding out what I know to protect yourself-- nothing about my children.

"You see, sir, you have taken part in kidnapping my children from me. You may call it what you will in your legalese, but, essentially, my children were kidnapped, are being kept away from me contrary to court order, contrary to my will and contrary to their wills, and you have declared yourself as my enemy by refusing to help my children. You are aiding and abetting their kidnapper, and I am their father.

"In the olden days of the Republic of Texas, men of honor, men of courage, and men of justice would have walked into this court house with their rifles and removed you and your ilk from the system. We don't do that anymore, and I think it is a shame. You are an enemy of justice and worse, you are my children's enemy. I will treat you as such. Do we understand one another?"

The linebacker sized lawyer only answered, "So you are not going to answer anymore questions?"

I smiled, "Maybe. But first, let me tell you a little story. There was a young man whose passion in life was to become a lawyer and serve justice. But somewhere along the way, he found that he could not accomplish justice, he could only practice a trade and treat his passion like a career. I know Priests who once had a passion for saving souls but soon got caught up in a career instead-- they are priests, but they don't save souls, they just make money an ply a trade. They got discouraged and faced a difficult decision at some point in their lives, and they chose what most choose-- they chose to be career men at the cost of their passions.

"I don't hate those men. I wouldn't go to any of them for spiritual direction, and I find nothing worth imitating in them, but I don't hate them. Few men make heroic decisions in our day and age. The only reason I did, was circumstance. Not only do I retain my passion for souls, but also my passion for justice. That you sold your passion for a career does not cause me to hate you. That you know where my children are, but refuse to unite me with them-- that makes you less than human, and I will treat you as less than human as a result. As I said, I retain my passion for justice. I am sorry you have lost yours, but that was your choice. You threw it away.

"So, sir, now that you know that I know who and what you are, do you still want to ask me the same questions again, because I will not spare your soul in my answers? I will tell you the truth about yourself so that you are fully aware of your own self-loathing as long as you want to continue this. Ask away, if you want, but I bet I can last longer telling you the truth than you can hearing it."

"I think we are done." He said.

I stood up and stepped to the door. I stopped to say, "You are probably going to win, because you know how to silence your victims in court-- but I will walk out of here being me, and you will still have to go home being you. We both know which one of us is a man."

Not surprisingly, another lawyer with the OAG was in place later that afternoon when we met for a second time at the judges request. This time it was the woman who would come to my rescue a few months later-- the one I recognized as she rushed to the bench to stop the judge from ordering me to jail.

She started with the same questions, and I stopped answering when she asked a question I knew she had the answer to. Another lawyer going through the motions, but not engaged in the action.

I said, "Last night, I drove around Galveston with my car windows open. I drove slowly through shopping center parking lots, by churches and playgrounds and schools. Do you know why I had my windows down?"
"No." She bent the single syllable to indicate annoyance.
I continued, "Because I hoped that if my children saw me-- even if I did not see them, I might here them call out to me. I don't know where they are and you do."

I tried very hard to maintain the directedness of my cold anger I had used with the linebacker lawyer before, but my voice broke at the end. Maybe it was because it broke that she heard me. She said very human words. She said, "I am sorry."
"I hope you are. If you are, you will stop asking the judge to cancel the scheduled hearings, and let me testify, let the judge bring my children back into my life and my life into those of my children-- you will stop this protecting of your own careers because children have hearts and so do fathers-- and they matter.
"Now, are you sorry enough that you will listen to my answers with some concern? Will you do what you have to do to be in keeping with what my divorce decree ironically claims as being in the best interest of my children?"
"Let's go over what we need to."

I started with the 55% garnishment. She immediately said it was impossible. I handed her the first check stub from the first child support payment-- garnished wages. She looked at it and said, "That must be just one mistake--"
She stopped talking when I handed her the entire stack-- every pay stub for over two years. I had highlighted each of them with different colors to make them instantly readable.

She flipped through seeing the same numbers on each and every check.

"My God! This can't happen! How did this happen?"
"Uh-huh. So, where are my children?"
"I have never seen anything like this before. I cannot tell you where your children are, but you are correct that you are required to be notified. I am just saying that I personally, cannot tell you, but I will help to make sure it happens."
"Uh-huh. You talk like a human, and I suspect you are, unlike your co-worker. So far, no one in the Office of the Attorney General has acted like one. Saying so is one thing three years into this, taking you at your word is not going to happen."
"Can you give me a few minutes?"
"Can you be back here in fifteen minutes?"
"I'll not leave if it means a chance to find see my children."

I came back and she seated me at a conference table and then warned me what she was going to do, making sure I could handle it, promising it would only be a few minutes. I agreed, and she brought my ex-wife in with the linebacker lawyer.

She asked my ex- some easy questions, and reached the place where she asked her to give her address. My ex- said that it was in the records already.
"Would you confirm it for me so I can complete this form?"
"I would rather him not have it."
"I see." Alright, thank you.

My ex- instantly went into what is referred to as splitting. That is to say, she went into a emotional state where a person is viewed by her (or anyone else with her condition) as all good or all bad-- and nothing in between can exist for the person she beholds. The female attorney became "all bad" to my ex- and the rant began. I rarely saw this psychotic activity directed at someone else. For the first time, I was in a position that her raging did not matter to me. In fact, her raging at an ally of her's was potentially useful. For an instant, I wanted to interrupt and become the lightening rod for her wrath-- force of habit. When it was my children, I always interrupted-- children should not know monsters.

I tuned-out. I could, for the first time ever. I could not listen if I chose not to. Eventually it ended, and I ended up in the room alone with the female attorney. She spoke quickly and urgently: "I think I can keep her here for a few hours. Do you know what school your children are in?"
"She keeps moving them, apparently to prevent them from forming relations, but I think I know where they are."
"Go. You have almost three hours before school lets out. Go find your children."
"Thank you."
She just nodded.

I went to the Catholic School. The office staff was alarmed at my request to see them. Not just surprised, but something was upsetting to them-- something proven wrong, something of regret. I don't know more than that, but it was an odd feeling they were having. Someone from inside an office came out and without any greeting snapped, "Go x number of block east on this street." You are less than five minutes away."
The staff looked satisfied with the authority's directions-- not the accuracy, but the relief of having someone help. The staff seemed to share some urgency in the matter. I left and they wished me godspeed.

Down the street, it was a similarly odd mood. A public school, and the office staff told me that they children had only been enrolled for a few weeks before their mother took them out and enrolled them somewhere else. Same feel, same urgency, same relief.

This time I was headed to the school they used to attend the year before. A different mood. I knew from the hesitation that I had found my kids, and I knew from the long absence of the office worker into the back that I had also found the school where my ex- taught school. They had a political situation, and were trying to reach my ex-.

I would not leave without seeing my kids, and so was armed with my divorce decree so they could not deny me access to them. But this group was nervous. They asked me if I could come back when school let out so as not to disrupt their class time. I agreed under the condition that before I left, word would be sent to my children that I would be waiting for them in the principal's office when school let out.

That was pretty much of a "check mate" on whatever they had planned, because once our agreement had been shared with my kids it got sticky for them to renege when I returned.

So I did see my children. I was over joyed, and they were happy. My daughter was feverish, and so I took them to get something to eat and then went and bought some acetaminophen at a drug store. My son asked as we walked out with the medicine, "How come everyone smiles at you?"
"I didn't know they did."
"Sure. I had forgotten that. But even strangers smile at you. No one smiles at Mom."
Somebody said, "Especially when they know her. No one likes her and she doesn't like anyone."
"Let's get some medicine in [my daughter] and go relax at that fun castle park." And that is what we did.

It was the last time I saw them. That was the day my car broke down on my way back to Austin. I never could afford another or even to repair.

A year later, in court, when the judge was trying to toss me in prison for daring to seek justice-- me a man in a woman's world, a woman's court with a woman's judge, surrounded by women's lawyers-- what was I thinking? Yet, it was a woman who jumped in to represent human beings.

She saved me from prison, and secured me a reasonable-- although maximum-- child support payment. The deal about finding my children repeated, I asked the judge for their address. My ex- told the judge I was lying and that I well knew where they lived. He asked her to give me the address anyway and she answered with, "I would really rather not do that."

Perjury is not against the law if you are a woman. Neither is assault and battery, nor child abuse. Laws are to punish men, not women. The judge didn't bat an eye.

Three months later, Hurricane Rita slammed Galveston and took away my children's home the AOG had me buy their mother. All of my possessions since before I even met their mother were inside that house-- community property doesn't exist in Texas unless it regards a women keeping her belongings.

The point being, the laws don't do what people intended them to do. They are used to control, and silence and empower a tyrannical government.

So I am driving a bus late at night back in 2009, and this young woman is on her way to have something to drink before going back out to the woods and sleeping under a tree at night. I felt so powerless to help. Before my own tragedy, I would have offered to sleep on my own couch and let her have my bed that night; but a desperate women is no one to try to help. They'll take and lie to take more. I pictured blackmail, cries of rape, or some unexpected subterfuge and even began to doubt her real need. If tyranny keeps coming into one's life in the form of a woman, you would be an idiot not to pay attention to red flags.

Okay, I needed to get that bitterness out.

The young woman told me her story as I drove us downtown. She had her license taken away for a DUI when she was nineteen years old. She failed a drug test while on probation for that, but saw jail as ruining her life, so she fled. She cannot get any services for the poor and homeless without a driver's license and applying for one means prison.

Her life, her hopes, and her dreams died when she was nineteen-- for a stupid teenage mistake. No forgiveness, no reprieve, she is done, living under a tree in the woods of Austin Texas. She is done. I hate drunk drivers. I hate drug dealers. But I know a man in prison for having a pound of marijuana. Yes, he was selling it, but that man is in prison for a long, long time. He'll be middle age when he gets out and his life is done. He is done.

I had a parishioner who lived with his aging and failing father. His father died, and three days later he is served an eviction notice. He loses his father and his home in one week's time. He went out to get drunk that night. He got pulled over on his way home. The cop had no idea that the young man of twenty-one was grieving his father, and mouthed off at my parishioner. The young man took a swing at the cop. They subdued him in no time, and charged him with DUI and assault on a police officer. I believe it was 14 years he received. His life was done. He is done.

Who was there to rescue these persons before their hopes and dreams were slaughtered before their eyes? Where were their families, friends, neighbors, and co-workers?

I know where God was-- God was with them in their loneliness. I ask you, where was the Devil?

He was prowling about like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour. He had so many helpers, it was easy.

I am tired of this blog entry. I have worked on it and cannot seem to hold my perspective-- still too much emotion to tell it the way it deserves to be told-- other than for cathartic reasons. I stop. I set it aside, and finalize its place by simply positing it. I don't want to return to it.

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