I was exposed to homeless people pretty early as a child. Back then we called them bums, tramps or skid row people. We lived in a poor neighborhood and there was a skid row right behind my house in the alley near the liquor store.
We used to play some pretty sordid tricks on the homeless people. One of them, named Red, would swallow a lit cigarette for a quarter. We would save up our change and get him to perform his trick. After he swallowed the quarter, he would turn red and cough for a few minutes. Then he would take the change he had accumulated and buy a bottle of cheap wine at the liquor store and sit and drink it in the alley.
That was, unless we managed to take it away from him. A lot of the time we would find an empty liquor bottle, fill it with whatever we could find and trade him or some other bum for it. This only happened a couple of times though, because they would finally wise up to our little scheme.
When I grew up, my experience with the homeless was a little bit kinder. I ran a restaurant and each year my employees and me would round up food and "care" packages and take them down to Larry Rice's homeless shelter and pass them out around Thanksgiving and Christmas. Maybe I was trying to make up for what I had done when I was a kid.
According to CNN, the hottest toy on the market this year is a $95 homeless doll from Mattel. What makes the doll unique other than the price, is the fact that it comes with a back story. The latest little doll hasn't got a home. She lives with her family who have lost their home to the mortgage crisis and is now living on the street.
The doll has caused controversy because Mattel, the huge toymaker, isn't giving a penny of its sales to help the homeless. Some people say that the toy is valuable because it teaches children about the homeless. But I think that at least a portion of the profits should be given to the homeless agencies that work hard every day to address this very serious problem.
Maybe they could donate a few dolls that the homeless could sell on the street for $95. After all, if the predictions are correct, you won't be able to find them anywhere else this Christmas.