Meet George. George is kind, hard-working, honest, and loyal.
I met George a few weeks ago. He has been in my heart since the day I met him. He is soulful. He is kind. And when he smiles it makes me smile too. He speaks with innocence and an undeniable tone of uncertainty. When he moves throughout my house he is unsure that he is welcome. I wish he understood that I fully welcome him into my home as my guest with no reservations. I tried to tell him but he is hesitant to believe.
George is a laborer. When he came to my house he busted his butt digging, moving dirt, and hauling it away. It was wet outside so he was full of mud. I watched him as he worked and he seemed to enjoy the fact that he was indeed working. He was smiling.
I made dinner. Called for him to come in, wash up and eat. It’s the least we could do for him since he was helping with extra projects around the house. I was informed that he’d be staying the night. This was fine because we have an extra bedroom with fresh, clean sheets on it just in case someone stays. I noticed that everyone came through the back door but George. He didn’t come in. I called for him outside and he peeked his head around the corner, “yes maam?” He was relaxing and would be in soon.
I heard a knock about twenty minutes later, very faint, I’m surprised I even heard it. I yelled for him to come in. As he entered the door he says loudly that he is coming in, “I’m coming in, on my way in.” I quickly replied, “George, you don’t have to knock here. I knew you were here and I was waiting for you to come in.” He smiled walked through asking for the whereabouts of the bathroom so he could shower. I gave him some clean towels and directed him to his bedroom.
Dinner is still waiting and George has been in the shower (singing) for nearly half an hour. We are nearly finished eating and he finally emerges, eagerly thanking me over and over again for letting him use my shower. I still can’t believe how appreciative he was. I should be thanking him. He did so much. He proceeds to ask for another towel and shower cleaner. I begged for him not to clean the shower and he did. Sad to say it was cleaner when he got outta the shower than it was before he entered. When I scoffed at him for doing such a thing as a guest he said that was how he was raised.
I like George. He is a smaller man, in his fifties. He ate dinner and again repeatedly thanked me for feeding him and letting him shower. I had to get bold and tell him to stop because it was making me feel bad for some reason.
We all went to bed shortly thereafter.
The next day George gets up and goes to work. Later that evening I’m asked if George can purchase an old television and entertainment center I have rotting in my garage. Well sure, it’s not doing anything but aging.
I am then asked to ride along to Georges home to help him unload it. Well sure! Before we leave George asks if I have any towels he can borrow or purchase from me. I said yes but not to purchase, he can have them. I have too many already. I feel the urge to ask George if he has everything he needs. He says he has a pillow that someone gave him and a small blanket and he’s better now that he has towels and a television. I get the feeling George is on the mend and is rebuilding his belongings but don’t want to pry. I sneak off into the house and gather an extra pillow, comforter, and coversheet just in case. I stuff it in the truck and off we go.
We arrive at an old dilapidated apartment complex across from our airport. The cars are all old and run down. There is an old office chair sitting at his doorstep. Some people don’t even have cars and the apartment numbers on the doors are wore off. It smells. It’s creepy. I don’t feel safe.
Regardless, we help George unload his stuff and we open the door to an empty apartment. There is an old lamp on the floor, a twin blow up mattress, an old stained pillow and a blanket, three feet by four feet at best, one pair of shoes and three to four articles of clothing in a stack on the floor. That’s it. Nothing.
George tells us that the stove does not work. There are wires hanging out all over and he’s afraid if he uses it that it’ll start a fire. The fridge is a smaller one and there is a small row of hanging cabinets that appear to have water damage on them. It’s dirty and musty smelling. My reaction was to bitch about his surroundings but he tried to make it sound like he was proud of having a place to call home so I stifled my thoughts and smiled. “Needs work George, but I like it.” We help set up the stand and television and I’m instantly thrown into the sitcom of Extreme Home Makeover. Only I simply set up a TV. Upon completion, George’s eyes fill up with tears and I am again thanked over and over and over. “I will not disappoint you Miss Denise. Oh no, I will pay you for this television and stand. Thank you thank you thank you!” I tell him to take all the time he needs and we leave.
I cry all the way home. How? What? Why? It’s just not fair.
I find out George came from a local homeless shelter. He felt unsafe and dirty living there so he did whatever he could do to make and save money to get out of it. He was hooked up with a social worker who then entered George into their so called “system.” I find out that George works his butt off and makes less than $50 a day after taxes. I find out that our local “system” put George in that old dilapidated shit hole that is unfit for anyone to live in.
George is African-American. I think he is stuck in the “system.” The system that nobody cares about. The system that helps nobody but the slumlord that actually collects the ungodly rent that he has to pay to live there. I don’t know how he can even afford it on his salary. I feel sick knowing he has to live that way. I feel sick that he is okay because he thinks he deserves to live that way. I feel sick because George is somebody.
My days and nights are filled looking for things to make George’s apartment a home. A couch, a dresser, a microwave. Things I have that I take for granted that he lives without daily.
George told us one day that he can’t wait to move back to Knoxville so he can live in one of the housing complexes near the bus station so he has transportation and doesn’t have to walk anymore. Did you know that you can ride the bus all day long for less than a dollar if you don’t get off? How do I know this? Because this is what George does on Sundays after church while everyone else is going home to families or friends. George rides the bus all day long and watches as people get on and off until the last route is taken and then he gets off and goes home.
George is a product of unfairness, being stuck in a system. He works. He pays his bills. He is genuinely a good man that was put in a bad situation and let the world beat him down. George is my friend.