In the lingo of the homeless, flying a sign means you go out and ask for money, or food, or work, or whatever by holding a hand made sign. In Fort Myers Beach, Florida, I saw people who made this their means to get cash for booze, pot, and drugs. In another part of Florida, I saw this as a way for a family with small children to get cash to make it across country after they lost their home and their job…they lived where they worked and lost both in one day. That observation and conversation with that family actually has inspired a children’s book that I wrote which I need to have illustrated; “Pennies for Oscar and Joshua”. Flying a sign to a retailer means hiring someone for minimum wage or a little higher, to stand on a street and advertise for their business. But someone who is homeless, flying that sign whether it be as a means for a paycheck or as a means for cash for food, that is a way to eat and survive.
Christian is around 30 something, maybe older. He is currently living in Billings, Montana. He has been to prison once for selling dope to a policeman. Not the smartest thing he ever did according to his own words. He has an ex-wife and children. He needs to support those children through mandated child support by the state of California. Somewhere along the way, he lost his ID or his ID expired. In every state, you need to produce your birth certificate in order to get another ID, drivers license or otherwise. Problem is, Christian can’t get a job because he has no ID to pay the money that it takes to get his birth certificate. Right now, he stands on a corner flying a sign to get money to eat. That is exactly what his sign says, too. To get his birth certificate, it will take two months. For those two months, he can’t get a job without an ID, he can’t live in a homeless shelter without an ID, he can’t really rent anything without an ID. This country, with its paranoia about 9/11 and all the supposed threats has made it very difficult to do anything without an ID. Some freedom. Smacks of communism to some degree. If you don’t have a job, you can’t earn a wage to pay for the ID. It is a terrible and almost impossible merry go round. He said there was a lady who wanted to know why he stood on a corner flying a sign. He told her his dilemma about not having an ID, of not being able to get a job, of how long it takes to get an ID-and the process is not easy at all. For a church to sponsor someone to get an ID, it is possible, and it is time consuming. The effort puts most charitable people off. I listened to Christian tell of how people treat him as they go by in their cars. Judgement flies at him-why don’t you get a job, there is a restaurant hiring right there? You can’t get a job without ID. You can’t get an ID without a job…no money. It’s easier for illegal aliens to get jobs than it is for a citizen without an ID. What irony. This is the USA?
Christian once had a face to face argument with the mother of his children for child support. She was angry that he had not been paying it even though at the time he did have a job. That job took the money out of his paycheck. Christian’s observation was that after taxes and then child support, he really only had about $15 to his name on a paycheck, that it actually was better for him to fly a sign to make money than to hold a job….but the rest of the story is that California mandated his wages be garnished for child support. He has evidence of this on his paystub. In the argument with the mother of his children, he showed her the garnishment. She said she never saw any of it, and she stopped demanding Christian to get a job to pay child support. I asked Christian where did the money go….he said the state of California. They collected it but never paid it for his children. I can’t say whether this is true or false. I do have another friend who had to pay child support in another state. It was screwed up, too, in the end, and the state or the exwife ended up owing the money back to my friend. Pretty sure he has never seen it.
Christian is a believer in God and Jesus. He says there are things that happened to him without any explanation but God. He fell in a river once and knows that he was drowning. He went unconscious and remembers nothing of the experience except that he somehow woke up hanging onto a rock at the edge of the river. He does not know how he got there, except by the grace of God. Another time he was arrested for stealing items from a woman that actually gave him the items, then wanted them back because she got angry with Christian. As it turned out, Christian had pawned the items. He was going to jail for 15 years, when out of no where the pawn shop owner sent a copy of the video of Christian and the woman in the pawn shop, pawning the items. The case was dismissed. Christian does not know how that owner came to send that evidence. He gives that to the grace of God too.
He lives in a tent in the back yard of someone’s home for about $20 a month. He’s ok with that. What he feels is a blessing? The mother of his kids and his kids were able to rent a room in the house on the same property from the same guy….when they came from California. He gets to see his kids every day. And he feels that is a blessing, even though the mother doesn’t like Christian. She will feed the dog before she will give Christian food…according to Christian when he overheard an argument between her and his daughter. That’s pretty demeaning and humble. Yet he keeps upbeat, from what I observed.
The Holy Bible says in words of Jesus, “judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgement ye judge, ye shall be judged, and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.” (Matthew 7:1-2, KJV). It’s getting to be the holiday season. You are going to see people on the sidewalks, looking for money. True, you need to be careful that you aren’t feeding a demon of addiction of some sort. Christian was simply trying make money to buy his kids pizza. Don’t judge that guy on the corner flying a sign looking for cash any more than you would judge the woman on the corner flying an advertising sign earning a wage. They aren’t any different. Not at all.
God bless you. You can follow more blogs at Tree of Hope Ministries by clicking on the red link.