I know. You were worried about such an unsavory site spoiling your holidays. After all, he lived on the streets. And he took a pretty nasty beating to the head.
One of you volunteered to speak with the television media. "I feel so sad," she said, obvious concern etched upon her face. "This is like a very, very good area."
What does one have to do with the other? Oh, yes, I see. The man was homeless. He slept on the streets. His death, perhaps, besmirched your comfy West-End neighborhood?
Authorities said he had no home. But in reality, he did. And he had a name. His name was Yoshio.
The elderly Japanese man didn't speak much English. Some say he wasn't entirely "there," the case with many of our city's indigent population. He mostly communicated through song.
Ella Numera Una volunteered at Miriam's Kitchen this past summer. Back In The Day, we used to call outfits like Miriam's "Non-Profits." Now they're called "Non-Governmental Organizations." NGOs are mostly social service agencies. As an NGO in Our Nation's Capital, Miriam's operates out of a church to try to help people like Yoshio get back on their feet. Or at least try to find some balance in their lives. Miriam's offers a hot breakfast every morning. They provide mental health, medical, housing, clothing, substance abuse & employment services. And that's just a different way to say "home."
Miriam's Kitchen has its head...and its heart...in the right place. Yoshio knew he was loved at Miriam's. He would come every day for breakfast. He often sang to the caseworkers. He would bow, & sing quite softly. American Standards such as "You Are My Sunshine," & "Home on the Range." And always something in Japanese, which the American volunteers tried gamely to learn.
Yoshio also scribbled in books from Miriam's library. Clients don't borrow the donated books; they're allowed to keep them. Since he didn't read English, Yoshio would write Japanese characters in the margins of each book he picked up from the stash. Many assumed this Japanese gentleman faced more than a few "mental health issues." But he was sweet. And he was harmless. And at Miriam's, at least, he knew he had a place in this world.
Christmas Week was a warm one in DC. Temperatures hovered near 60 degrees. Even though the Miriam's staff works hard to find shelter for the hundreds it serves, they readily admit that some of their clients who come to the church basement every morning would much rather sleep out on the streets when the weather is nice. Many of them say they feel safer out in the open. City shelters are kind of scary.
When the story broke, the media didn't really focus on Yoshio. They focused on the neighborhood in which he was found. You Upscale Resdients, who live across the street from the Watergate, one of DC's Finest Addresses. In a building that had housed DC's former mayor. On the fact that Yoshio died on Christmas Eve, presumably spoiling the holiday for all.
I warned Ella Numera Una when she returned from college that a homeless man had been murdered in the West End, near Miriam's. I told her that the victim might be someone she knew. When she came back from volunteering the day after Christmas, she collapsed in the sobs I remember from the sensitive little girl who used to cry when other people hurt.
"Mommy, it was Yoshio," my almost-grown-up child said. "Why would anyone want to hurt Yoshio?"
So, you Yuppie West-Enders, now you know. Yoshio wasn't a bum. He had friends. He was loved.
Yoshio didn't make the Six O'Clock News because of his gentle nature. He made headlines because he was beaten to death across the street from the Watergate. In a wealthy neighborhood. On Christmas Eve.
Here's hoping you all re-discover the love in your hearts some time this New Year,
Editor's Note: Mrs. Scribe's first contribution to the 2009 Random Complexity Writing Challenge. 668 words.