there but for the grace of god……

I haven’t posted one of my own photos here before, largely because they’re completely rubbish (unless you like out-of-focus Golden Retriever’s bottoms), but I just wanted to share this one.

It was taken on the evening of President Obama’s inauguration as me and my two friends left a metro station in DC en route to a celebratory meal in a swanky restaurant.

To make ourselves feel better we dropped some money in the man’s cardboard box, but he didn’t respond, he was in another world.

It was a magnificent day in our lives, but just another day in his.

I thought of him again tonight after reading some emails from visitors to this blog, truly amazing people who give up so much of their time to do voluntary work to help people just like this man. We’ll never know his story, what happened in his life to reduce him to this, but it’s just incredibly heartening to know there are people out there doing their very best to help.

Many would say he’s just a a bum and a junkie, most probably inflicting misery on other people’s lives. That may be true, his woes may well be self-inflicted, but there but for the grace of God go all of us … and even if, like me, you’re not religious, the sentiment holds true.

So, just to say: thank you to all you wonderful people who quietly do the very best you can to help. While the keyboard warriors trash you on various – supposedly – progressive websites, you’re out in the real world trying to help real people in their real lives.

Love you for it – you know who you are.

20 Responses to “there but for the grace of god……”

  1. 1 majii
    December 30, 2010 at 9:58 pm

    Thanks for posting this, Chipsticks. It’s a visual reminder that anyone could end up in this man’s predicament. Anyone.

  2. 2 EDP4BHO
    December 30, 2010 at 11:21 pm

    And look at what I just found today, to make your point even more poignant. Once down and out folk, finding a way to carry on. All were addicts, now all praising their salvation. Enjoy, and thanks CS.

  3. December 30, 2010 at 11:31 pm

    Chipsticks, this photo makes me both cold and lonely, as though I can, for a while, live in his skin. The office here is getting cold, we’re looking at minus 17 tomorrow. We’re making sure the animals don’t suffer with the cold without a source of shelter and heat.

    How much more important then that we should look after our homeless, human beings who through no fault of their own find themselves without anything, or who have been caught in a spiral of self destruction, or who are mentally handicapped and without a family to look after them? This is especially heart rending in the winter. And yes, There but for the grace of God go I.

    We live in the country and seldom travel so we don’t see scenes like that every day as people in cities do. It’s good for us not to be so complacent that we forget how close all of us are to this kind of want, or in some cases, despair.

  4. December 30, 2010 at 11:35 pm

    Very powerful image. Great photo Chipsticks.

  5. December 31, 2010 at 1:12 am

    My goodness, it was so cold that day-Inauguration Day in Washington,DC and resting on that cold concrete. The compassion I feel with this image now is so overwhelming. All I can do is send up that special prayer that the conditions in our country get better so that the numbers decrease and our homeless get shelter and food on these cold wintry days and nights. Please Lord remember them.

  6. 6 avpmom
    December 31, 2010 at 5:00 am

    This just breaks my heart and is a reminder never to lose sight of what is really important~

  7. 7 Perry
    December 31, 2010 at 9:27 am

    Well for me this photo says…we still have much work to do! May the new year coming cause us to continue in working and not being idle. My prayers for all to have a new year filled with fresh hope, determination and a heart for others.

  8. 8 EDP4BHO
    December 31, 2010 at 9:51 am

    Mornin Chipsticks and Obama Diary family. Let me apologize CS for posting such a large attachment above. I thought just the link address would show. Gotta figure out how not to do this again. Also, one of my hopes in the future is to be able to somehow work to alleviate homelessness. There is absolutely no excuse whatsoever for anyone in this country to not have a clean, secure place to lay one’s head at night, and to live with dignity, no matter how humble. It’s a disgrace that no elected official has properly, gainfully addressed as of yet. And I refuse to try to put this on President Obama. Homelessness is and remains a local issue, thus local officials need to earn our votes. Otherwise, they SHOULD NOT be in office.

    • December 31, 2010 at 10:18 am

      Morning EDP4BHO, what a beautiful and inspiring video, thank you so much for posting it. (It’s not too large at all – although, I’m still trying to figure out how to make YouTube videos a bit smaller on the blog, I need to go Googling!)

    • 10 Theo67
      December 31, 2010 at 1:47 pm

      Ed – I do believe that HUD is working with Vet Affairs to eradicate homelessness amongst military veterans, and also in general. You might want to visit their web page to see what is already in progress, and if there’s anything you could participate in. What a worthwhile goal for 2011. http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD?src=/topics/homelessness

      • 11 EDP4BHO
        December 31, 2010 at 3:39 pm

        Thanks much for the info Theo. It astounds me that, although we know that people will always fall on hard luck, proper and immediate services are not available after all these decades. When I was small (1950-60’s), I saw vagrancy but I don’t recall seeing so many blatantly without shelter. After a lot of mental institutions were closed, I think, homelessness became much more prevalent. Will be doing more research this year. And a happy new year to you, and to all.

  9. 12 A.L.Zymers
    December 31, 2010 at 11:51 am

    Whenever I think I might add something to the conversation some other commenters eventually say what I’m thinking. So the impulse to delurk, and “remove all doubt” as to my stupidity, is under control. But in regard to your passion about homelessness, I remember that President Obama has been passionate about it, too, and, since I didn’t see anyone mention it, I googled for some links. I don’t know how to make them “clickable” though. I will try to blockquote, but without the capacity to edit this may look yukky.

    From US Department of Veterans Affairs:

    Five-Year Plan Unveiled at Homeless Summit

    WASHINGTON – Today, at the “VA National Summit Ending Homelessness among Veterans,” Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki unveiled the department’s comprehensive plan to end homelessness among Veterans by marshalling the resources of government, business and the private sector.

    “President Obama and I are personally committed to ending homelessness among Veterans within the next five years,” said Shinseki. “Those who have served this nation as Veterans should never find themselves on the streets, living without care and without hope.”

    Shinseki’s comprehensive plan to end homelessness includes preventive measures like discharge planning for incarcerated Veterans re-entering society, supportive services for low-income Veterans and their families and a national referral center to link Veterans to local service providers. Additionally, the plan calls for expanded efforts for education, jobs, health care and housing.

    “Our plan enlarges the scope of VA’s efforts to combat homelessness,” said Shinseki. “In the past, VA focused largely on getting homeless Veterans off the streets. Our five-year plan aims also at preventing them from ever ending up homeless.”


    Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program

    On February 17, 2009, President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which includes $1.5 billion for a Homelessness Prevention Fund. Funding for this program, called the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program (HPRP), is being distributed based on the formula used for the Emergency Shelter Grants (ESG) program.
    For additional information on the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), please visit HUD’s ARRA page, or http://www.Recovery.gov.


    Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness

    Cabinet members and Administration officials from the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness deliver plan to finish the job of ending veteran and chronic homelessness by 2015 and among families, youth, and children by 2020.

    Source: http://www.povertyinsights.org/2010/12/27/top-ten-efforts-to-end-homelessness-in-2010/


    President Obama Announces Important Housing Initiative for People with Disabilities

    On June 22, 2009, the 10th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Olmstead decision, President Barack Obama announced a new Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher initiative as part of “The Year of Community Living” – a new and ground-breaking effort to assist people with the most significant and long-term disabilities to live independent and fulfilling lives in the community.

    There’s much more, but I won’t take up the space. Suffice it to say that without one or another of these programs, I would be living in a box under a bridge.

    Thank you for highlighting the issue.

    • 13 Theo67
      December 31, 2010 at 1:50 pm

      Sorry for the duplicate information I posted above, A.L. – I responded before I scrolled down to read the other posts,and then saw you had posted the same info, and more! Hopefully, it translates to double the support for the homeless! 🙂

      • 14 A.L.Zymers
        January 1, 2011 at 5:30 pm

        No need to apologize, dear Theo67! Doubling down on the positive merely proves my ultimate point that empathetic people are operating on the same wave-length, sharing certain essentials of humaneness, and rejoicing in the translation of these impulses into public policy. Perhaps increasing the repetition of the good news of this administration, as exemplified by the huge efforts of Chipsticks and Blackwaterdog, will counterbalance–even overwhelm–the viral force of vituperative misrepresentation and ignorant posturing that has sucked all the verifiable progress from the information stream. Wishful thinking, perhaps, that the mainstream can be penetrated, but at least I can come here and to the rare sites like it, to keep my enthusiasm fired-up. I’m stunned that the so-called progressive-sphere doesn’t understand how important these pictures and this information is for keeping the authentic base energized and engaged. Or perhaps they do understand.

        Okay, enough ranting. Thank you for letting me go on, Chipsticks.

    • December 31, 2010 at 2:04 pm

      That’s absolutely wonderful information, A.L.Zymers, thank you so much for posting it here. I’m so happy one of these programs has helped you in your life, I wish you all the very best for 2011.

    • 16 EDP4BHO
      December 31, 2010 at 3:41 pm

      Great info A.L. Much to add to my arsenal of research this year. Happy happy 😀 !

  10. 17 cassandra123
    December 31, 2010 at 11:57 am


    Thank you for providing a forum for all of us. On this New Year’s Eve, your photograph reminds me of the merciless cold on Inauguration Day! I was a volunteer for the event, and I was scheduled to arrive at 4:30 AM. It was bitter cold. I really thought I would pass out from the cold. Thankfully, the many people I volunteered with were wonderful about relieving each other so everyone got a chance to get warm. However, I volunteered to be somewhat uncomfortable in the name of democracy (my view of our work to support our President). This person in your photo who is a human soul may have had no choice/or few choices. We are the fortunate ones. We have fairly good health, fairly good opportunities, and free will to work hard at being successful. I firmly believe a primary difference between the President’s supporters and those opposing his work is “empathy!” You saw a person in distress, and it affected your point of view, and how you related to his image. Others who see his photo, or someone in his life’s condition, may ignore his plight altogether or refer to him with distain. I shall always try to volunteer to be in the group that has “empathy!” Happy New Year to All of my new friends at “The Obama Diary” and “the only adult in the room!”

  11. 20 Sue in Minnesota
    December 31, 2010 at 4:50 pm

    This photo makes my heart hurt. An open and wise heart recognizes themselves in others. And in God’s eyes, no one is better than another.

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