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Web letter by Brian White: Series of unsettling encounters shows how fragile economy remains

What is really going on here?

Don’t get me wrong – I truly love Fort Wayne. I have lived here all of my life. I have a wonderful family and a great job. However, over the past month or so several things have happened that have made me wonder what is really going on here.

Last month, as I left work at my downtown office late one afternoon, a man approached me on a bicycle and asked me to give him money to purchase a one-way bus ticket to Memphis. He said he needed $91 to get his ticket. I told him that I didn’t have any money at which point he thanked me, noted that we have become a debit card society and rode off back in the direction from whence he came.

A month ago our detached garage was broken into. Nothing of real importance was taken; however, we now no longer have our lawn edger and my daughter is missing her GPS system. Likely, both of them have long since been pawned or otherwise sold.

Less than two weeks ago while walking in my neighborhood near Foster Park with my son, a car pulled up and the driver asked us for some money for gas as he was about to run out. He also told us, now believe this or not, that since he was on home detention, his probation officer would find him if he ran out of gas before he got back home. I told him that I don’t carry any money – he mumbled something and sped away.

Just last Saturday while mowing my yard, another person this one walking down my street, stopped and told me that he needed money for diapers and food. I told him that I couldn’t help him at which point he turned around and walked back in the direction from whence he came.

Again I ask: “What is really going on here?” In the short span of a month four incidents have occurred that I haven’t really had happen to me before in my entire life. Each of these events – while seemingly unrelated – have the same feel to them in my mind and in my heart.

As a child I remember my late mother telling me stories of life during the Great Depression. One of the most memorable stories that she and my grandmother related was about the hobos who would often get off the trains in their southwest central Indiana town. These hobos would approach houses near the railroad tracks seeking work in exchange for food. As related by my grandmother and my mom, most folks found something for these wayward souls to do, fed them and sent them contentedly on their way.

Does anyone besides me see a connection or maybe a disconnection here? History tells us that during the Great Depression thousands of folks were out of work because there truly were no jobs available. These folks did what they could to survive.

Currently we hear that there are jobs out there and that the unemployment rate is improving. If this is indeed the case, then why are so many unsettling events so described above occurring in my normally simple and quiet life? What is really going on here? It seems that too many people now want the easy out when they are down and out. Maybe it is because they can’t find work, maybe it is because they don’t know any differently or maybe it is because they are simply lazy.

All I know is that until our society finds ways to give everyone a great education, provide them with meaningful work and give them relationships that help them make the right decisions, we are going to have the seemingly random acts that have recently occurred in my life occurring in the lives of others.

BRIAN WHITE

Fort Wayne

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