Jim O'Leary

Waverly Star

By Jim O'Leary

An e-mail newsletter for and about Waverly people, used with permission in the HLW Herald and on this web site.

  Dec. 1, 2003

Skip cheap charity, give generously of your time

We O'Learys lived for a while on Highway 12 across from the Waverly Elevator by the Great Northern Railway tracks, a pipeline to the west and to jobs during the Great Depression.

There were many hoboes on the freight trains, and when the trains slowed or stopped, some of them jumped out of the box cars and sought work or food in our town.

It was fun, not charity, to have them at our dinner table sometimes. We heard stories and stories of men trying to find a way to support their families during those grim days of stratospheric unemployment rates.

The dictionary says the origin of the word "hobo " is unknown but last week, during my stint as a volunteer at the Mother Teresa Homeless Shelter, a genuine hobo told me what it was. The men carried hoes along with them when they were seeking work, according to him, and hence were called "Hoe Boys."

His name is Slim and if you are ever tempted to stereotype the homeless, think of Slim. Besides loving to travel, he is a songwriter and a cowboy and would never give up the life for dull security.

His latest disaster, which made him homeless, was losing his Fender guitar on the streets of Memphis when he had set it down to make a phone call, and presto, it disappeared.

Slim tells me that he still hitchhikes and rides the rails. I told him nobody hitchhiked any more, as I had done so easily when I was young. I told him times had changed and people were too afraid now to pick up a hitchhiker.

He said I was wrong and that I could get a ride any time I wanted if I just had a saddle.

See, here in Texas, if you stand beside the road with a saddle next to you, the first pickup truck that comes along will almost always give you a ride.

He said in other parts of the country, such as in Minnesota, you just have to have a guitar by your side and you will be surprised at the number of people who will stop for you.

At the shelter, thanks to the generosity of the churches here, we are able to provide free lockers, showers, washers and dryers, coffee, and food and clothing.

The homeless are especially appreciative of blankets and jackets now that the weather is getting nippy.

We have too much clothing, though. Americans have overcrowded closets and it is cheap generosity for them to dump off their old clothes at the charity nearest them.

Many of these donations get hauled off to Mexico in pickup trucks and "ragged out " for a penny a pound to manufacture paper. If you want to give, make it coffee, or better, your own time. Take the time to talk to some homeless person.

It is a rare homeless person who doesn't want to tell his story. The biggest problem the homeless face is the loneliness that goes with it.

These are men who are either alienated from their families or who never had any families to begin with. What our shelter provides is the chance to form a community, a meeting place for them where they will feel welcome. Some of them have taken to calling the shelter, "our house."

Although lots of cities have been passing anti-homeless ordinances to clean up their cities, thank God, Corpus Christi isn't one of them.

I don't understand why we aren't more crowded with homeless people, given our good climate and the opportunities we offer them here, such as day labor outlets, the public library, Catholic Charities, soup kitchens and free shuttle buses around downtown.

Dallas isn't as friendly to the homeless as we are. I saw a Jay Leno type headline in today's Dallas Morning News, "Fines for panhandling not helping homeless problem." Well, duh! What can they do to the homeless? Jail would be a welcome relief.

It's like the soldier in Iraq last week when he made some unflattering remarks about his Commander in Chief.

Somebody asked him if he wasn't afraid of getting in trouble and he said, "What can they do to me? Send me to Iraq?"

One of the big problems the homeless face, which I hadn't thought about, is spider bites, since many of them sleep on the ground or in abandoned buildings.

Everybody at the shelter can show you a spider bite, sometimes from the horrible brown recluse spider.

Now believe this or not, dogs and cats are welcome. Some of the travelers we see take their pets with them. We are very lucky that our director is an animal lover. We keep a supply of dog food and cat food in our storeroom.

Our director, Patricia, is one of thirteen children from Glasgow, Scotland and married to an American who was stationed with the U.S. Navy at the nuclear submarine base in Edzell, Scotland.

He often comes and helps. The beans and cornbread, which he makes at home and brings along, are better than any beans and cornbread I have ever tried to make. I am jealous of his popularity with the homeless crowd.

There are as many as 200 homeless a day who come through our place. Some of them come at 8 a.m. and stay until closing time. On Saturdays and Sundays, early morning breakfast is a big hit because the soup kitchens don't offer breakfasts of any kind on the weekend, not even coffee.

The people who work at the shelter don't romanticize the noble life of the hobo, but the people, who work there, including some rather tough nuns, have one thing going for them.

They like them. And so do I.

Baseball again

Now that this wretched season is long over, a season during which both the Twins and the Yankees lost to much inferior teams, we can safely discuss the subject again without the profanity objected to the umpires.

What an awful time! Even Yogi Berra let us down by appearing in AFLAC insurance commercials with his quips obviously scripted for him. Yogi in the barber chair with a duck walking in.

It was embarrassing to watch him, just as embarrassing as it was to watch Joe DiMaggio with Marilyn Monroe (but hardly anyone remembers that one).

Say it ain't so, Joe. And to Yogi, he who famously said, "It ain't over 'till it's over," I would like to say, "Yogi, it is over. You aren't cute any more."

My favorite Yogi story was from once when he was catching for the Yankees and one of the batters came up to the plate and blessed himself with the Sign of the Cross. Yogi, a Catholic himself, said, "Hey, Al, why don't you just let God enjoy the game? "

Some of the players still bless themselves at the plate. I won't knock that idea too much because I would kneel down and say the Rosary if I ever had to face Roger Clemens or Billy Wagner. I wouldn't even be able to see a ball whizzing by my head at 100 miles an hour, much less react to it.

I remember Ches Ogle's teaching us how to fall away from an inside pitch: "Back and away," he would say. "Place the bat behind you and then lean back against it with the bat holding you up so you won't fall down."

Ches, there wouldn't be time!

If you want to know where all those blessings at the plate came from (Remember Kirby Puckett who went to Catholic schools?), I think we should look to the nuns as the prime suspects. Most nuns are closet baseball fans. I even ran into Waverly's Sister St. Luke Copeland, C.S.J. at a Twins game one time.

I just read about a nun who has been teaching in the Dominican Republic for over 40 years. Sister Lenore Gibb originally came from Canada and joined the Sisters of the Immaculate Conception.

They run a school called Divine Providence where they teach the poorest of the poor. Now get this: Sister Lenore started and coached the baseball team!

Among the name players Sister taught are Sammy Sosa, Jesus (Pepe) Frias, Julio Franco, Rico Carty, Alfredo Griffin, Juan Samuel, Nelson Norman, Alberto Lois, Rafael Batista, Victor Davis, Manny Acta and Clemente Hart.

All this from the town of Consuelo, one of the poorest towns in Latin America's second poorest country. Sister Lenore is still down there and maybe when Sammy Sosa hits a homerun and points up to the sky, he is thinking about Sister Lenore.

I don't know though. It's just about a game played here now called "money ball," a game where the Boston Red Sox fans pay $110 for a simple team jersey they can show off, and where in most parks it's a week's wages for minimum wage people to take their children to a game, even without a beer and a hotdog.

The Minnesota Twins sold out all their expensive fan paraphernalia early in the season this year.

One of my sports heroes, a baseball player, of course, said one time, "Ya know, sports is just about showing off. It's just showing that you are better than somebody else at something. And that something doesn't mean anything."

I don't think Sister Lenore would agree. I bet she believes there are "angels in the outfield" and that the God of both the rich and the poor likes to see us enjoy ourselves all together at an entertainment like baseball.

People talk to strangers at baseball games. There's a community there, and for a society, which is starving for community, that's a good thing. And when your team loses, you really haven't lost anything. "Just wait until next year." they always say.

And when your team wins, you can feel really good about something, never mind that that something is nothing.

And that ain't bad, is it, Yogi? Nothing is still something, right?

(From down in Astros Land where Billy Wagner throws every pitch at 105 mph and who has saved as many games as our own "Steady Eddie " Guadardo.)


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