Sunday, November 18, 2007


Thanksgiving came early for about 50 homeless folks today. My friend, Chief, invited Greg and me to join the celebration. We dropped by the Clackamas service center after church and chowed down on turkey and stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans and rolls . . . and of course, pumpkin pie. All provided by the homeless church that Chief attends.

Danielle, who'd never been to the service center or met any of our homeless friends (except Chief), came with us. She was plowing into her mashed potatoes--her favorite food on the planet--when Charlie, a toothless man in his fifties, took the seat across the table from her.

Charlie started talking and was still going 20 minutes later when we excused ourselves and headed out the door for our next destination. We were going to "adopt" a kitten at PetSmart.

As I filled out the "adoption papers," I couldn't quit thinking about Charlie.

In order to adopt my kitten, I had to agree to keep her inside at all times.

"It's much safer for the kitties if they are indoor cats," the adoption counselor told us.

Charlie lives underneath the blackberry brambles along Springwater Trail.

The "adoption fee" I paid for my kitten included the following: all necessary vaccinations, spay and/or neutering and a microchip to help me track her should she ever get lost.

Charlie suffers from a multitude of ailments, from cancer to diabetes. He only has one lung. He has a daughter who lives in Gresham but doesn't really want to see him.

"I keep telling her it was my drug money that put her through college," Charlie told us. "But she still doesn't want me around the grandkids."

I had to estimate how much we'd spend on our kitty's welfare each year. I was grilled about my philosophy of pet discipline and interrogated about the other pets in our household.

Charlie works odd jobs, but doesn't know where his next meal will be. In the past decade, prison provided the safest environment Charlie has known for some time. Except for his stay in solitary confinement.

"There's laws that chimpanzees got to have a certain amount of space in their cages. But people can be locked up in little cement cages and nobody gives a . . . " Charlie informed us, between bites of stuffing.

I love animals--and am really excited about the new kitten we'll bring home tomorrow, but it's a sobering fact that in America, our pets are often treated better than people.

According to a recent article on cbsonline: "Americans care about pets more than ever today. Nearly two-thirds - 63 percent - of households have a pet, and pet lovers spent $38.5 billion on their pets in 2006, up from $21 billion a decade earlier. "

It hurts my heart to think that my new pet will be living in luxury compared to Charlie, as he hunkers down in the blackberry bushes trying to stay warm and dry through our wretched Portland winters.

Why isn't there an agency to "rehome" homeless people?


Chris said...

The stat you quoted near the end reminds me of something I read about a UN study (I couldn't find the study after a brief search, but I found this). It said that the money that U.S. and European people spend on pets could end world hunger. It's sobering.

I don't pretend to know the right answer to this dilemma. I know that God created animals and established our dominion over them. And just like the Earth, that dominion is both a responsibility and a blessing. We need to care for them. I do not think we should feel guilty or enjoying them.

At the same time, I think that people are clearly higher on God's scale of value. In my opinion, it's not responsible or ethical to spend ridiculous amounts of money on pet accessories while avoiding eye contact with every homeless person who asks for help.

Like just about everything in our spiritual journey, there's a tension here. We certainly won't get any closer to the answer unless we ask God to help us along as we wrestle with the question. Thanks for reminding me about the question, Shawn.

P.S. - I think there are some agencies trying to "rehome" people... Sisters of the Road and Trasitional Youth, to name a few in Portland.

Who links to my website?