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When A Frightened Friend Calls

Thursday, June 23, 2011

A blog or so ago I mentioned the wedding of a friend, we'll call him Elmer. It was a tableau of faith and humility and love.

But Elmer has, over the years, been unable to right his own boat and guide it through the shoals of life without sending out an SOS every few months or so.

Bright red flares of personal anguish.

By that, I mean he is needy. And because our Thursday morning prayer group is, in actuality, the only family he has, outside of his wife, we receive the distress signals. On a regular basis.

Elmer's latest frightened phone call came earlier this week to one of the men in our group.  "You've got to help me. I am going to be homeless at the end of the month." By saying "me" we assume it means his new wife also.

This friend to whom Elmer cried out in desperation, has rented part of his home to Elmer. Several times. Sometimes without receiving rent money for weeks on end, which he forgave and allowed him to continue living there with no rent. But the place was a mess, and after many months of frustration, when he finally left, the place was a disaster.

This is not the only place and person in our group who offered and then regretted the offer of a place for Elmer to live several months down that road.

Our needy friend is mostly blind. He cannot mentally be above a 5th or 6th grade level in reading and comprehensive skills. Elmer is the sweetest man you could ever ask for. He always speaks a kind word where it is called for and lend an ear to hear your troubles. 

This week at our morning get together, Elmer was not there (probably because his car has died or he has lost his license) and we pondered his situation.

Should we offer to help? Should we guide him to social services? Social security? County assistance? Food stamps? Government assistance programs? And the answer was no.

No; because we have guided him to all those assistance programs before and he never went, never called, and he refused our offer to take him to those programs.

One of the men quietly said..."Don't you think that we have done all we can do?  And don't you think that God has a plan for him and that plan includes the possibility that he has to fail. To be on the street. To be so low that he will have no choice but to contact the services available?"

And that, as harsh as it appeared,  made sense. You cannot help yourself if you always depend on others.  If Elmer had heeded the advice when first it was offered, he would not be in such desperate straits now.

We will still be his friends. We will always be there for him. But there comes a time when you must stand up and walk.

I think that time has come.

(C) 2011 George Locke


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Age: 81

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It was 1960 and I was fresh out of high school. I had left rock and roll behind for a while after Dave Guard and the Kingston Trio crept up to whack me with a "Tom Dooley"-stick in 1957. Then came "The Brothers Four", "The Highway Men" and "The New Christie ." and I was hooked. I joined the Army because Uncle Sam promised he would send me to Public Information School to learn journalism, photography and a smattering of radio broadcasting. Hootenany was in the air. I followed my favorites, including the heart-breaking clear voice of Joan Baez to Korea while I wrote for "The Cavalier" and "The Stars and Stripe". I was a correspondent and photographer. Then it was on to New Mexico where I found "Peter, Paul and Mary", early" Bob Dylan" and some scratchy "Jimmy Rodgers"('The Singing Brakeman'). I bought my first guitar while I was producing radio programs for "White Sands Missile Range" and learned a few chords. I recorded a few live concerts, using purloined equipment in Coffee houses through the Southwest. Places like "The Don Quixote" in El Paso, Texas. And I listened to performers, gaining knowledge along the way. When I got out, the 60's and ྂ's came hurtling at me, dressed with songs from new writers and performers. I went to broadcasting and drama school for a season in Boston and began to listen to the likes of Dylan, Tom Rush, Dave Van Ronk, Donovan, Mark Spoelstra, Patrick Skye, Jim Kweskin and Phil Ochs. I traded my $30 red and black Stella for a Gibson and began haunting places like the "Unicorn" plus "Club 47" in Cambridge and numerous clubs in New Hampshire. Then a group called "The Beatles" changed my view on everything. I became lead singer and rhythm guitarist in a band called, "The Notables". I bought a more expensive Gibson and an electric 12 string. We did 'Stone's' covers and 'Lovin' Spoonful'. I plunged into James Brown. A 22 year old white kid doing James Brown. I was nothing if not audacious. I went into commercial radio in a small market station back in NH. I wrote news, sports, rip and read weather off the teletype and interviewed everyone from William Shatner to Eugene McCarthy.and George Gobel. I got another twelve string. I got married. I acquired 4 children, and lost everything in the war. And I stopped playing for awhile. Then I met my passion. The love of my life. We married. We produced 5 children together. I was writing in earnest, after I began a spriritual journey. I started telling stories. Childrens tales, Anansi, Coyote and all the worlds mythical characters were part of a woven tapestry I still am adding to today. A friend gave me a Martin D35. Another gave me a Yamaha acoustic/electric 12 string. A few months back I sort of 'retired'. That's another way of saying I was let go. It was then I received my 'Dana Fligg' long neck banjo and am now writing for a local literary mag. I sold the Martin. I bought a Washburn acoustic/electric. My wife gave me a fire-engine red solid body Epiphone electric. I have five beautiful grandchildren. There is much more to say and much more to sing about, but I am glad to have found this place.

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