A LAMENT FOR HOME
There are times that I feel that I do not belong. I wonder if I truly know where my home is. Born and raised in Topeka, Kansas I knew where my home was until I was fifteen and then that summer of 1972 I was relocated, against my will, to Saint Joseph, Missouri and I have had no home since then.
From the smell of the Saint Joe stockyards to the glorious fall colors of the Weston, Missouri Bluffs I have been from one extreme to another. From the crystal clear mornings of Nemo, South Dakota to the struggle of living out of the back of a car in Cameron, Missouri I have seen full days and hungry days. From running away from the horror of the streets of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma to the hope of a better life in Abilene, Texas I have seen Hell and Heaven. From the indifference of Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri to the Comforting embrace of El Paso, Texas I have seen Hate and Love. From the Crack Whores of San Angelo, Texas to the dust blown hopeless streets of Midland, Texas I have known the living dead and their haunts. From the small minds of Baxter Springs, Kansas to the driven souls of Independence, Kansas I have known ignorance and inspiration. All those places, all those lessons, all that time wasted and back to a place I once considered home yet my grip on that concept is not what it once was.
When I returned to Topeka after a 43 year absence I was energized, excited and ready to re-establish myself within my home. Yet what I returned to was not the Topeka of my youth. It was a place filled with crime encouraged by corrupted institutions that would have once fought against the onslaught but now have grown lazy. If it don’t affect me then why should I be concerned? Has become the mantra heard all to often.
Community organizations have been infiltrated by those who think that to help means to climb the social ladder. Oh yes I am a volunteer would you like to see my portfolio? They have forgotten that it is about something greater than them.A city that was once beautiful has allowed itself to be taken down a sewer pipe by individuals that destroy that which was once viable and now lies in ruins. Absentee landlords are not held accountable and buildings that once housed commercial business sit stark and silent collapsing in upon themselves.The state in it’s infinite wisdom opened the doors of the asylum and set the patients lose upon the street then closed the doors behind them so that they could no longer have a safe haven. The homeless and wanton wander the streets encourage by those who claim they help. The helpers line their deep pockets with the dollars spewed forth by well meaning people who feed not with food but with enablement as the lazy give birth to cardboard signs on city street corners.
I see glimmers of hope by those within the Topeka Community who have witnessed what I have and do not turn a blind eye to it. There are those that struggle and fight against the Avant-Garde invasion into their efforts. They fight to find ways to end the corruption, the blight, the despair and the collapse of the city they love, These are the warriors that go into battle with a pin knife and a candle to show the way. They pray that more people like themselves will bring their candles and pin knifes into the fray so that they may create a mighty fire and many sharp teeth to rip to shreds the apathy, corruption and divide that destroys the community.
I look at Topeka’s History and my heart aches for the loss of what once was. I look at the communities future and it is gray and uncertain. I know that the community must reinvent itself if it is to survive. I know that the community is striving to rebirth itself yet I worry. I worry that unless the dark elements that have crawled into the community are not dealt with first that instead of rebirth Topeka will suffer a miscarriage of the fetus of progress.There are times I want to join the fight and charge forward. Then there are the times, like today, that seem like a waste of my time. I fight to stay strong but I see ignorance, sloth, avarice and apathy. My stomach turns and I ask myself; Why do I even try? Yet the next morning I awaken and go forth to add my candle and pin knife to the fight, the fight where I cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel. Frustration fills my soul and sadness grips my heart. Where is my Topeka? Where is my home?
Are you still with me? Have you traveled on my journey this day? Do you feel what I feel? Do you want to move ahead and not fall back into the abyss? Are you thinking I may have the answer? The truth is I do not; I wish I did.
I reach down deep inside and my Gypsy blood calls out to me; Release material possessions, put it all behind you and head off to the next spot in the road over the next hill and at the end of the horizon. It is tempting however I will stay, for now, because deep down inside I love Topeka and I Love my state of Kansas; it’s people, it’s places, it’s history, it’s today and it’s tomorrow. I will stay not out of a sense of duty or obligation but because I know that if everyone ran when frustration fills our souls then we would never step into the better future that it takes each and everyone of us to create. For today I will call Topeka, Kansas home and try to ignore the times that I feel that I do not belong. I wonder if I truly know where my home is.