Ken Dean: One small act of kindness

FILE PHOTO Bridge to Home Shelter donations come from families, churches, scouts and businesses. Helping set up the sleeping quarters with blankets and towels are volunteers Haley (L) and Riley (C) Cabot and Resident Attendant Jayne Patafio (R). Photo Tom Cruze/For the Signal
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In the article “Serving the needs of the homeless” published in last week’s Saturday Signal, Silvia Gutierrez and Hunt Braly wrote: “The reasons for becoming homeless vary from person to person. Some include: a foster child who turned 18 and is no longer eligible for foster care; someone who lost his or her home; someone who could no longer afford health care costs; someone who has a mental health issue, and someone who struggles with drug and/or alcohol abuse.”

I’d like to share a story from many years ago when I was in college and I had to do a term project. I chose senior citizens and the homeless to film.

Most of it was done at Formosa Park in Hollywood. While interviewing and filming many people – lonely senior citizens playing chess, homeless people lying on the grass, etc. – I came upon one man who had something about him that made him seem he didn’t belong there, a sort of distinction.

I talked to him at length and, after researching his name, learned this: The now-homeless man was once a very prominent attorney with a law practice in Brentwood and a home in Beverly Hills.

Life was good, until, one day, his wife and daughter – the sunshine of his life – were killed in a car accident.

Unable to confront this tragedy, he began his downward spiral.

First came drinking to forget, then the loss of his law firm, then the loss of his house and the car he was living in, and finally his new home, Formosa Park.

I asked him how he ended up in Formosa Park rather than a park in Beverly Hills, and he said he used to play tennis there – and noted its distance from the memories of Beverly Hills.

Now every time I see a homeless person I think about this man and wonder what the story is behind each newly met individual.

Two days before Christmas last week, in the wind and pouring rain, I was at Stater Bros. on Sierra Highway picking up a few items for a nice Christmas dinner.

Upon leaving the store I noticed a homeless woman sitting against the wall on the wet walkway. I looked at her and walked to my car with sorrow in my heart.

At my car I asked myself, what can I do? I looked around and saw a McDonald’s. There was my answer.

I went inside and purchased a hamburger, french fries and a drink. As I handed her the bag of food she looked up at me and, in a soft voice I can still hear, said “Thank you.”

I walked away still feeling sad knowing that I was going home to a dry, warm house and she would still be there on the wet, cold pavement.

We can all do something – because something small can be something big.

Ken Dean is a Santa Clarita resident.

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