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Ray Duckler: While she suffered alone, I had a great time

One week after spotting a homeless woman in New York City, I wish I’d done more to ease her pain.

She lay under a blanket on Madison Avenue, shivering and crying, the city racing by, the high-end jewelry stores in the area creating a striking dichotomy.

Diamonds and precious gems, some worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, my sister said, sat in display cases facing the avenue. Of course, there were no price tags showing dollar amounts.

Meanwhile, the homeless woman had a cup nearby, her savings account for the day, halfway filled with bills and change. The smallest bill I had was a 10, so I asked my sister if she had a few one-dollar bills. I took two of them and stuffed them into the cup.

Then we moved on, excited about what the city had to offer. The Big Apple is great when you have tickets to a pair of Yankees games, against the Red Sox, no less.

It’s great when you have seventh-row tickets to see Idina Menzel on Broadway, and when you see Toni Collette outside the theater and tell her you love her movies, and when you visit family during the Passover holiday and feel the closeness that comes with blood relations.

It’s not so good, I suspect, when you’re homeless and cold.

Later, during quieter times in New York, the sight of this woman brought my mind back to Concord, to the homeless problem we have here.

Bill Watson and his wife, Miriam, came to mind quickly. They were the directors at the South Congregational Church, one of two winter shelters in the city.

They retired after this past winter, leaving behind a body of work full of kindness and compassion. But like here, there and everywhere, the problem never seems to fade, no matter how much time and effort people like the Watsons put in.

The issue, of course, is a minefield, polarizing and political in nature. We hear what’s needed, like more sympathy and more empathy, more funding and services, more help for the alcoholics and the drug addicts.

And we hear the other side, that many homeless people are content being homeless, sucking off the system without trying to better themselves.

Recently, former Concord police chief John Duval was caught in a pickle when space behind Everett Arena and along the railroad tracks, between North Main Street and Stickney Avenue, were closed to homeless camps.

Suddenly, the local police were forced to be the bad guys, shooing the homeless away, pushing them to move when there was no place else to go.

Earlier this month, at a Concord City Council meeting, several homeless people testified about a 22-page plan from the mayor’s task force to end homelessness.

Solutions included an expanded Homeless Resource Center in Concord and more low-income housing. “I think it’s the beginning of a conversation, not the end of a conversation,” Mayor Jim Bouley said.

Some had trouble with this thought, though, saying the conversation should have started long, long ago. Concord’s cold-weather shelter program, after all, began 10 years ago, created to ease suffering in the short term, not solve the problem over the long haul.

And now, both the South Church and First Church, the other big-hearted shelter in town, are re-evaluating how much longer they can remain open.

Meanwhile, the faces and stories of the homeless surface, in big cities like New York, and small ones like Concord.

For me, a recent column I wrote on a homeless man named Kevin Clark took the harshness from the topic. Clark plays sweet chords on his guitar at the entrance to Eagle Square, and his quick smile and affable nature made me forget what he experiences each January.

Clark, once married, has three kids. He was raised in Pembroke, once dreamed of playing music professionally, loves Bon Jovi and Gordon Lightfoot, and loves the summer.

The woman I saw on Madison Avenue?

All around her, jewelry stores – Cartier, Links of London, Elizabeth Locke – rose into the sky, blocking the sun and adding to her chill. Men in razor-sharp suits and white gloves stood guard inside, in front of diamonds encased in glass.

The woman’s skin was dark and leathery, and her body shook uncontrollably beneath a brown blanket.

Unlike Clark, I didn’t ask the woman who she was, what she once did for a living, if she ever married, if she had kids. I was on vacation, enjoying family time, not digging for a good human interest column.

Instead of giving her that 10-dollar bill, a drop in the bucket in the grand scheme of things, I chose to drop two one-dollar bills into her cup. She heard me approach and lifted her head, about 6 inches off the pavement.

She opened her eyes slowly, like a sleeping cat suddenly awakened by a bright light.

“Thank you,” she whispered.

“You’re welcome,” I said, before walking to a restaurant for a nice dinner.

(Ray Duckler can be reached at 369-3304 or rduckler@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @rayduckler.)

Legacy Comments26

Very noble of Ray's buddy to come in here like the cavalry in some spaghetti western, but he don't "got this straight". Straight, obviously wouldn't fit his agenda. The truth is, I have expressed my opinion on Ray Duckler's writing skills in this forum, just twice (that's two times; not 'continually', and not 'always'). Everything else I've written in this thread has been in reply to those who chose to respond to my post, via question or comment. Aside from Ray, that would be just tillie and gracchus. It doesn't take Dr Phil to know that 'tillie' is a loose cannon...on a good day. nuf ced, there. Commenter 'gracchus' I merely filled in on the origins of my CWMoss ID. Nothing nefarious to write home about in that regard. The topic of duckie's (ouch!) article here is a good one, but he comes across as clueless on the subject matter. As has been posted below, giving the homeless cash is nothing more than enabling their addiction(s). That's Street Life 101. How does a journalist of any tenure not know that much? But Ray's biggest mistake is his feeble & pathetic attempt to make every article he writes (that I've read) about himself. Isn't this temptation toward self-indulgence discouraged in Reporting 101? Has to be. The writer, Ray Duckler, I find nauseating. That's my opinion. Love to give my opinion on Hunter_Dan's writing, as he requested. If anyone knows where he's been published, please speak up.

So let me see if I've got this straight: poster(CWMoss) who doesn't - as far as I know - have a job as a journalist, continually finds fault with an actual journalist. And then goes on to attack every other poster with a pompous air of superiority. Who is this CWMoss character . . . and what does he think of MY writing???? Ooohh . . . to be lambasted by him . . . my heart is all atwitter just waiting to be the ox that he gores next!

how long ya been an ox?

In the very early days of AOL chat rooms, we had a saying: "Please don't feed the snerts." Snert being short for "snot-nosed egotistical rude twit." Some snerts evolved into internet trolls, while others just remain snerts. The original advice still holds: Don't feed them, and they eventually lose interest and go play somewhere else.

I sincerely appreciate your support, FoF, and will try not to let them bother me. Thank you, very much!

I must say FOF,I feel in good company to be on the receiving end of his snert remarks.

Beautiful piece by a beautiful writer. Thanks, Ray, for always telling it like it is.

Hi CWMoss. Ray Duckler here. I always enjoy reading your responses to my work and would love to interview you for a column. We can joust and mix it up, get to know each other, figure out how I can develop a personality. Game? Ray.

lol....

Always? Believe I've commented here about your work on just two occasions. Regarding your offer to interview me (subject material must be at a premium), I received the AARP packet in the snail years ago. I'm not about to volunteer to be portrayed by a subpar journalist at this stage of the game. Besides, I would never want to be alone with any guy who calls himself 'duckie'. Thank you, but I'll have to pass.

I think it would be worth the interview just to find out why you have assumed the name of a fictitious movie character played by the ever-creepy Michael J. Pollard who delivered the following brilliant line: "Dirt in the fuel line... just blowed it away."

CWMoss was my old online Texas Hold 'em (up) ID from nearly 15 years ago. Spoz I could change it to WDJones, who was the actual getaway driver for Bonnie & Clyde (rumored to engage in other activities with the infamous couple, as well...ahem). They had to come up with CW for the movie because WD's family threatened to sue, otherwise. Far as Pollard goes, I know next to nothing about his acting career, and that's fine with me.

that was worth the months subscription price right there

Whatcha afraid of?

Have you already forgotten your post explaining you changed to 'tillie', the name of your housecat, for the abuse you took with your former ID? Sounds like it might be time for 'tillie' to be put down...lol.

I am not sure what you mean by that putting me down. I don't know Mr. Duclkler but I think instead of just criticizing his column you felt it necessary to criticize him personally. Why I don't know, the column didn't seem to be about you or even very controversial.

Tillie, Are your meds current? Let's cut to the chase and have Ray do a story on you, "The Irrepressible Pride of Epsom".

You are really ITSA aren't you? Since you seem to enjoy hitting people, not for their view but making personal remarks about them, you are not worth my time anymore.

Promises, promises...lol. No, tillie, I'm not "ITSA", or any of the others you're so quick to (mis)label and lambast in here. Look, if you're going to dish it, then you must expect to take it. Glass houses, ma'am.

Would've been great if you had crawled under that blanket with her, and called it a life. That would at least put an end to the Ray "it's all about me, folks" Duckler byline. You make every article a mini-bio on Ray Duckler, which might not be so nauseating if you had some personality. How you got where you are is the big mystery, imho. Gotta be some slight-of-hand involved.

duckie wrote: 04/27/2014 Hi CWMoss. Ray Duckler here. I always enjoy reading your responses to my work and would love to interview you for a column. We can joust and mix it up, get to know each other, figure out how I can develop a personality. Game? Ray.

Your personality deficiency is probably congenital, Ray. Sorry, can't help ya there.

When you gave the woman $2. you became an enabler.

seriously

I was under the impression you should never give money directly. One reason is they may not actually be homeless. Give your money instead to a proper charity...it'll do more good. And no, this isnt "crackpot rhetoric one sees scrawled anonymously in newspaper"....its proper advice.

The best way to give money is to a tax exempt charity a la Kochs and they you can get it taken off your taxes and Republicans can say "aren't they good to the poor."

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