No pea’s please….

By Haven Lindsey  in  blog  on  11.02.2014

                Have you ever had the experience of hearing a sound or perhaps
seeing or smelling something and immediately your mind travels
back in time and relives a memory?

Maybe a particular song takes you back to your high school prom or the whiff of fresh cut grass or seeing a display for S’mores in the grocery store transports you to another time in your life.

As I stood behind the counter at a resource center for Austin-area homeless men, serving Chicken Fricassee with peas and spinach salad, I was enjoying being smack dab in the moment (where everyone says we’re supposed to live anyway). Neither thinking ahead to what I needed to do once I got home, nor thinking behind mulling over all the things that happened throughout my day I was focused on the meal, the hungry men and the experience. And then Chet walked up and politely said to me, “no pea’s please”  and immediately my mind traveled to the 1980’s…high school, my favorite local band and their album,“Two B’s Please”. When that impromptu mind travel experience happens I enjoy residing in both worlds…this particular time serving food in Austin while remembering a band and concerts in a tiny enclave in Southwest Virginia.

I have worked with, volunteered for, known and learned from many people who are either currently experiencing homelessness or have done so in their past. I worked alongside a young man who, as a result of bad luck and a greedy landlord, lost his apartment and was homeless during the notorious and relentless Maine winter. His primary concern? His dog.

Not having a home to call your own is without a doubt a challenging existence and one I cannot fathom having the strength to endure. In my hometown of Austin, like many, the #1 reason people are homeless is due to a lack of an affordable place to live…not because they are drug addicts, alcoholics, mentally ill or lazy.

           They are homeless due to the economic reality of supply and demand.

Most of the men who utilize the homeless resource center in Austin have jobs. They are polite, gracious, respectful and they may not have a home but they have their dignity. And quite a few of them, like Chet, don’t like peas. Chet caught my attention because his southern inflection of “no peas please” took me back to my youth. As I talked with him it turns out my ear had not let me down, Chet was raised in Southwest Virginia surprisingly close to where I was from which is why the inflection in his voice sounded familiar. Chet had been in the Army, stationed in Texas and had fought in Iraq and Afghanistan. After completing his tours of duty, he decided to stay in Texas and moved to Austin.

As we continued to talk, Chet explained that he grew up poor and didn’t have a lot of choices. Peas were cheap and plentiful and Chet’s mother served them almost every night for supper. As Chet explained,“I got burned out on peas, my Momma forced me to eat them and now I’m adult and I’m never eating them again”.

And with that, my mind traveled back to a former U.S. President who stated something remarkably similar about his aversion to broccoli.
And once again, therein squats the toad.
We.   Are.   All.   The.   Same.

We’re the same, we are unique and we have our differences but when it comes right down to the bottom line…same, same, same. George doesn’t like broccoli, Chet doesn’t like peas. Neither man wants to live his adulthood eating a food he doesn’t like.

Consider this:  Does it matter that one man is a former U.S. President and the other is a former soldier for the U.S. Army? Does it matter that one has a home (multiple, to be accurate) and one doesn’t? Does it matter that one grew up with privilege and the other grew up in poverty? Can we respect them both equally for their choices, likes and dislikes? Are we able to recognize our judgments and our expectations of people when we think a little deeper, when we dare to explore what’s beneath the surface of our thoughts and opinions?

If their least favorite food was the only available choice, I highly doubt either man would starve – they would likely eat whatever they had to in order to sustain themselves. Both men shared the fact that they saw themselves in positons of power and decisiveness and proclaimed their preference. Therefore, George isn’t served broccoli and Chet isn’t served peas.

And for me?  I was reminded me of a local, Southwestern Virginia band, singing about football games and end zones and that “Sweet Virginia Breeze”…pea’s (and broccoli) nowhere to be found.

Thanks for reading,
~ Haven

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