Opinion

Just Ordinary People Living Under a Bridge

Paul Scott is a minister and activist in Durham.
Paul Scott is a minister and activist in Durham.

“This ain’t a movie, no / No fairy tale conclusion y’all / it gets more confusing every day.”

“Ordinary People” (John Legend)

You see them every day during your morning commute, homeless people standing on street corners holding signs hoping that someone will reach under a car mat and salvage a spare quarter or two.

Most people merely lock their doors and continue munching on their breakfast bangles, not giving the person standing out in the cold a second thought. But every time I see a homeless person I think, “there but by the grace of God go I.”

At the end of 1990, after running up and down the East Coast and failing to secure my dream job as a superstar radio disc jockey, I stuffed all my belongings in a 30 gallon trash bag and headed back to the Durham . Two months later, the company for which I was working, abruptly, shut its doors right before Thanksgiving.

At 23 years old with no mouth to feed but my own, I managed to survive for four months off of a weekly diet consisting of a box of Banquet chicken , a pack of microwave popcorn and a two liter off brand soda. No matter how hard times got, I was always comforted by the words that my dear old Dad told me as a hastily packed my Nissan Sentra earlier that year, “Son, you can always come back home.” But everyone is not that lucky.

Many people do not have a Plan B of swallowing their pride and heading back to their childhood bedroom to get their lives back on track. Some people’s only option after failing to make a name for themselves under the big city lights is an alleyway behind an abandoned building or a spot under a bridge on frigid winter nights.

Thankfully, there are people in Durham who care about the plight of the less fortunate. One such person is Francine Ray. Determined to do more than look the other way, last year she started Operation Under the Bridge.

Ray said she got the idea while watching a news story about someone who had fallen on hard times. Not only does she deliver the donations to the homeless, she also takes time to listen to their stories.

We don’t like to admit it, but most of us are just two paychecks away from poverty. Matter of fact, for some of us, if the mailman comes too late on Friday, we may be sitting in the dark roasting marshmallows by candlelight all weekend.

Maybe the work of Francine Ray won’t end world hunger. After all the Good Book does say “the poor you will have with you always,” doesn’t it? But just maybe her act of kindness might inspire someone to share a piece of Thanksgiving turkey with a person who, otherwise, would have to rummage through a garbage can for holiday dinner. Perhaps she might inspire someone to pick up an extra pair of socks when they engage in their traditional Black Friday mad dash to WalMart ritual this year. Or maybe at least convince someone to give a homeless person a warm smile and a “good morning” as they pass by.

As Ray told me as we wrapped up our conversation: “They are really nice. They are just ordinary people.”

Visit the Operation Under the Bridge Facebook Page for more information.

Follow Paul Scott at NoWarningShotsFired.com or on Twitter @NWSF

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