Monday, February 01, 2010
Down on his Luck
I was not a regular watcher of the popular Western TV series Bonanza, but recently, while surfing TV, I stopped to watch a portion of an episode. I was curious as an adult to see the quality of the writing and acting. In this particular episode, the father, Ben Cartwright, was admonishing a son for being critical of a man who was "down on his luck."
Growing up in a family where excuses were rarely tolerated and in a society where taking responsibility for your own life and avoiding victim and entitlement mentality are mantras and truisms, the admonition in that show gave me pause for reflection and has precipitated a rethinking of human misfortune. Certainly many individuals can do more for themselves, and cheaters exist. But sometimes, there are mitigating circumstances, and there is such a thing as bad luck. Without really knowing the details behind an individual's descent into the streets, it is unfair to make blanket condemnations.
In New York City, with frequent exposure to the homeless and disadvantaged, it is easy to become inured with their plight. If you read stories of the homeless, some of the life circumstances that led to where they are do give reason for thought. I have become more acutely aware of my good fortune.
The can collection center in the photo is located in Harlem at 144th Street and 8th Avenue (Frederick Douglass Boulevard) at the rear of a Pathmark supermarket. This was a no-nonsense group of men working in frigid 14 degree weather with focus and fervor.
I was never drawn into the survival reality TV shows - no matter what "hardships" are meted out, there are no real serious consequences. For a real glimpse of survival, try the can redemption center, where there is no helicopter waiting to deliver a pizza as a reward for the winner. Surely there must be at least one man there who is down on his luck...