Public service

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Kenny sat expressionless on the frigid chrome steel wheelchair while gazing down at the stumps that used to be his legs. He had just been released from Mercy hospital after both his legs were amputated two week ago Friday. He had been wounded after an IED exploded near Kandahar Air Field in Afghanistan which tore open his Humvee. 

Kenny sat expressionless on the frigid chrome steel wheelchair while gazing down at the stumps that used to be his legs. He had just been released from Mercy hospital after both his legs were amputated two week ago Friday. He had been wounded after an IED exploded near Kandahar Air Field in Afghanistan which tore open his Humvee. 

Born at El Cajon Valley Hospital, Kenny grew up playing Pop Warner football in Well’s Park. He attended Granite Hills High School and following the aftermath of the terrorist attack on 911, Kenny willing joined the army. While on deployment, overseas serving his country, both his parents had been injured in a hit and run accident then taken off life support several months later.

All family assets were liquidated to pay the costly medical expenses which occurred while his parents were in the ICU. Kenny found himself alone, on the street, with no way to earn a living. After the armored vehicle exploded he had been given morphine to manage his pain but his pain never went away nor did his need to self medicate.

Now homeless, hooked on prescribed pain medication, Kenny was forced to live in city parks where he had access to public restrooms. As he wheeled across the freshly cut grass he remembered much happier times when he had practiced football at the south end of Well’s Park. 

As he wheeled up to the restroom complex, he noticed that they were all locked and closed to the public. Rotten food and trash were scattered all around as it overflowed from city trash cans. Regular trash collection had been suspended and now the content in the cans was putrefying.  

There was also several new signs posted around Well’s Park, stating that it was now illegal to share food with people on any city-public property. Kenny’s heart broke. Tears began to fill his eyes as a police patrol car made its rounds through the parking lot. The police car stopped near the restrooms as both officers got out to investigate what Kenny was doing there. 

“You can’t stay here in the park” said the senior officer adjusting his pants up over his hips.

 As Kenny wiped his eyes and brushed the hair away from his face the younger policeman thought he might have recognized Kenny from his army unit in Kandahar.

“Kenny? I lost track of you after the incident. Heard they transported you to Germany.” said the young officer.

The senior officer pulled his partner aside to discuss the situation. Then, after several minutes of intense discussion, the younger officer explained to Kenny that his shift was almost over and that he should wait there on the sidewalk and he would pick him up for lunch in just a few minutes.

It’s shameful that some people look at the homeless as just fodder that needs to be tilled under, trash to be disposed or at the very least swept under the rug. Locking public restrooms, neglecting to empty overflowing trash cans denies the public of a safe and clean place where they can relieve themselves and wash their hands with soap and water.

Passing laws that make it illegal to share food is appalling when there are men and women, just like Kenny, living out on the streets that need a helping hand. It’s true that local churches have feeding programs but shouldn’t our city politicians have the responsibility to help all citizens that are living within their limits?  

Locking public restrooms, not removing trash and providing ill-maintained port-a-potties is a situation that may be contributing to the existing health epidemic plaguing our county and cities. Most portable toilets are not handicap accessible and, when not routinely maintained, can be a source for hepatitis A as well as many other communicable diseases. 

Over two thousand years ago, Jesus warned us that we need to love people by helping them. Jesus said that we need to love others as we love ourselves. Jesus Himself both touched and hugged men and women who had leprosy. He insisted that true religion is helping widows and orphans in their distress; to reach out to the homeless, undesirables as well as the lost. 

In the gospel of Matthew 25:44-46 we have an intense judgment by Jesus on those people who refused to help others.

 “Then they also will answer Him, saying, Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you? Then He will answer them, saying, Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me. And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

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