Hello, apples, and happy Tuesday. Welcome back to the Good to Grow blog. Thanks for being here.

I’m not my usual cheery self this morning, I apologize for that. See, I had planned on showcasing all the wonderful things about Albuquerque that I cherish – cool places to visit, fun sites to see, great places to eat. And I’m still working on that.

But today, it doesn’t seem fair to showcase the great things without mentioning the bad. And every community has good and bad qualities to it.

Yesterday, I was talking to my new neighbor, who’s in the process of moving in. We were talking about Steve, the homeless guy who’s been staying across the street for the last few weeks. Steve is a nice, nice fellow who’s very down on his luck. He has lots of company. My neighbor said it’s getting worse. He told me that one of his buddies is a barber, who for years has visited a shelter for AIDS patients and given them free haircuts. Last week, the shelter was closed due to budget cutbacks. The dying men were told to fend for themselves – they’re out on the street now!

Did I fact-check my neighbor’s story? No. But it got to me anyway. Between stories like that, and witnessing the demise of Steve (I remember when he used to live in his car and actually make attempts to work), I’m just depressed.

I love this city, but there are a lot of problems. I get that tough economic times call for difficult decisions, but how come services for the most needy are the first to go? I have this dismal view of the people making those decisions, like they are incapable of understanding the world through someone else’s eyes, someone’s like Steve. Homelessness has no face in Albuquerque.

Several years ago, I began carrying granola bars and water in my car. In my small plant-care business, Good to Grow, I drive to offices and homes all over Albuquerque. I noticed more and more people standing at stoplights or corners, holding signs asking for money. Most of these people were older – it wasn’t like kids hanging out hoping for beer money. I’m not a fan of handing out money, but I’ve got no problem with giving food to anyone who’s hungry. I found out the damnedest thing – I would roll down my window and say, “Hey, sir, are you hungry?” or “Ma’am, can I get you something to eat?” and almost every response was the same – the person would look at me and grin, point to his or her lack of teeth and say something like “Honey, I can’t eat that, but thank you and God bless.” Or something to that effect – over and over this happens. (The exception is when they do have teeth and are hungry, so they accept the food.) I laugh back, the light turns green, and I continue on my way. More than money, more than food, these people wanted someone to treat them like humans. Without fear, or contempt or disgust. Or worse – being ignored by the person who keeps the window rolled up as if no one is standing there.

I’m very blessed, I have a brain, and a great family. Someone like Steve has no one, and he doesn’t have the capacity to understand the consequences of his bad decisions. When I hear someone say, “he should pull himself up by the bootstraps,” I get furious – some people don’t even know what a bootstrap is, much less how to use it to improve one’s life. The times I’ve heard statements like these, it’s always been from rich white men – of course. Lucky them, being born white and privileged, and being educated enough to know how to use hard work to their advantage, how to manage their money and their energy. Lucky, lucky them.

It’s condescending to think that every single person on the streets chooses to be there through either laziness or drugs or lack of ambition. It’s criminal to judge someone based on the color of their skin or what their accent may be. It’s hateful to interfere with anything that happens in someone else’s bedroom or marital status.

All this judging, the hatred, the fear, the assholish ways people are behaving these days – it’s shameful. This is America – why aren’t we taking care of our own?