It’s People Like Thomas

I scared him about as much as he scared me.  Well, startled is a better word.  I didn’t expect to see him curling up under a cardboard box with Sony large screen printed on it.  He didn’t expect someone to come stumbling into his bedroom for the evening.
After we each recovered from the surprise of seeing the other, he asked me if I had a cigarette.  I handed him one and told him my name was Jerry.
We chatted a second about the weather and I sat down with him for a few minutes.
His name was Thomas (not his real name) and he had just gotten to Asheville a couple of weeks ago.  He’d been drifting a couple years and someone in Chicago had given him a ride as far as Knoxville and he hitch-hiked to Asheville.
Up until about 2 or 3 years ago, he was a successful business owner in southeast Georgia.
After getting out of the Army — Thomas served in Korea — he married his childhood sweetheart and settled down in Valdosta to raise a family.  For a variety of reasons, he and his wife quit working in the fields and farms around Valdosta and started a little janitorial business.  Just the two of them.  Over the years children starting showing up — as children have a way of doing.
Thomas and his wife eventually had four children.  While their family was growing, their little company was growing also.  At one point they had 15 employees.  The business was successful and Thomas was able to put all four kids through college.
And then it started.
His wife developed cancer and Thomas turned the business over to his youngest son.  He needed someone to run the business while he took his wife for her cancer treatments.  He also wanted to spend whatever time she had left with her.   Around the same time, there was a flood of illegal immigrants into the area and Thomas found his customers moving their cleaning contracts to the cheaper labor that illegals bring.
She died 8 months after the diagnosis.  Without her around to take care of him, his life fell apart.  Despite being able to run a successful small business, he couldn’t handle the more mundane activities of daily life.  Simple tasks such as sorting laundry became overwhelming to him and his daily regimen of medications was beyond his grasp.  Slowly he drifted deeper into depression one day he just opened the front door of his home and stepped out of his life.
For several reasons, he constantly fell through the cracks of almost all the agencies and organizations that could help him.  He roamed the country until he found himself here in Asheville, curling up under a cardboard box with Sony large screen printed on it.

I scared him about as much as he scared me.  Well, startled is a better word.  I didn’t expect to see him curling up under a cardboard box with Sony large screen printed on it.  He didn’t expect someone to come stumbling into his bedroom for the evening.
After we each recovered from the surprise of seeing the other, he asked me if I had a cigarette.  I handed him one and told him my name was Jerry.
We chatted a second about the weather and I sat down with him for a few minutes.
His name was Thomas (not his real name) and he had just gotten to Asheville a couple of weeks ago.  He’d been drifting a couple years and someone in Chicago had given him a ride as far as Knoxville and he hitch-hiked to Asheville.
Up until about 2 or 3 years ago, he was a successful business owner in southeast Georgia.
After getting out of the Army — Thomas served in Korea — he married his childhood sweetheart and settled down in Valdosta to raise a family.  For a variety of reasons, he and his wife quit working in the fields and farms around Valdosta and started a little janitorial business.  Just the two of them.  Over the years children starting showing up — as children have a way of doing.
Thomas and his wife eventually had four children.  While their family was growing, their little company was growing also.  At one point they had 15 employees.  The business was successful and Thomas was able to put all four kids through college.
And then it started.
His wife developed cancer and Thomas turned the business over to his youngest son.  He needed someone to run the business while he took his wife for her cancer treatments.  He also wanted to spend whatever time she had left with her.   Around the same time, there was a flood of illegal immigrants into the area and Thomas found his customers moving their cleaning contracts to the cheaper labor that illegals bring.
She died 8 months after the diagnosis.  Without her around to take care of him, his life fell apart.  Despite being able to run a successful small business, he couldn’t handle the more mundane activities of daily life.  Simple tasks such as sorting laundry became overwhelming to him and his daily regimen of medications was beyond his grasp.  Slowly he drifted deeper into depression one day he just opened the front door of his home and stepped out of his life.
For several reasons, he constantly fell through the cracks of almost all the agencies and organizations that could help him.  He roamed the country until he found himself here in Asheville, curling up under a cardboard box with Sony large screen printed on it.

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