Thursday, May 27, 2010

OPINION: Los Fantasmas De Socorro

By Gary Jaramillo
Publisher, Mountain Mail

It’s been a sad tradition of sorts for decades here in Socorro and across America for everyone to helplessly watch those poor unfortunate lost souls who walk down our streets searching in the most deplorable of places for cans to sell for booze, or standing in a place where the rest of us do business or gather at lunch time with their hand stretched out for a quarter, a nickel, or perhaps even just a cigarette.
The ghosts will absolutely become incensed if you offer them food instead of money for their habit. They don’t need or want food any more. It’s not what keeps them going any longer. Los Fantasmas neciten un trago de liquor. No mas, no menos. Their eyes no longer hold light, even during the brightest of days.
Pride and self esteem have long since abandoned Los Fantasmas de Socorro. It’s hard for ghosts in small towns because people pretty much know the ghosts personally and know just exactly what the circumstances were surrounding their life’s tailspin into the abyss.
I’ve offered my friend help time after time for many years now, as we all have down through the years with all of the other ghosts of Socorro who have lived on the fringes of our city. We then begin to get angry at them because they are too lost and their ability to reason was lost deep within themselves long ago.
All of the Socorro ghosts of the past and present say, “Only God can help me now”, as they wait through the long miserable winter nights in Socorro’s alleys and hot summer streets for their time to come.
I stopped on my way to the Post Office a while back and got out of my car in front of San Miguel Church where my friend sat on the curb crying and half drunk in front of the Virgin Mary Statue.
I said, “let’s go eat”, and reached my hand out to help him up. He squinted up into the sun at me, rubbed his eyes after a minute, grabbed my hand and said, “Oh Gary it’s just you, I thought my dreams had finally come true.”
I asked him, what dreams? He smiled and shook his head looking away from me with tears running down his cheeks, and whispered, “you know Gary, you know – I thought God had finally come for me.”
Then he smiled that big weary smile and said, anyway, got any extra change today my friend? I keep telling you that I don’t want or need anyone’s help, but you just won’t listen. Lot’s of people ask me and they don’t understand that I can take care of myself.
So, I gave him 3 dollars, he blessed and thanked me, so I turned, got in my car, and drove off. Didn’t do a damn bit of good, I thought. Not a damn bit.
The story always ends the same every time we meet. My friend is not the only ghost living in Socorro. It seems when one ghost finally disappears from our streets and alleys, we all shake our heads and say “what a shame”, then move right along ready to watch and accept the next ghost as we go about our everyday lives. Is there any way any one of us can help? Can we physically corral these ghosts and find places for them that will help? I once tried with former Chief of Police Lawrence Romero.
We made calls and tried to get answers from agencies and it seemed that state and federal officials threw their hands in the air and pretty much said, “can’t take them in for help, if they don’t want to go.” Just that simple really.
Sad, but just that simple. And if there is no family to intervene, the end result is always the same.
I can’t help but feel helpless and frustrated about this very long unfortunate and unwanted tradition here in Socorro.
We all just accept that this is how it has to be and it can’t be changed. I don’t believe that for one damn minute. It’s a matter of more than one person caring at the same time and sitting and putting a plan together.
I don’t think we need to wait for permission from some state office to help a man who once was a Police Officer here in Socorro with a family and children. For me, he is not a waste that once was somebody. He is my friend, and always will be. I can’t help thinking about him sleeping in horrible places and eating god knows what just because he has given up on himself and isn’t thinking straight.
Most continue to look the other way when he comes shuffling towards them on a city street or business maybe because they feel “if he doesn’t care anymore, why should I?” Are we all that callous, really? He’s just sick and lost, and alone. All of us have someone (if not ourselves) in our families that are just one bad break or heart break away from being the next El Fantasma de Socorro. Could any of us stand watching our child, uncle, father, mother, son or daughter live on the streets of their hometown and just let them fade away in front of our eyes?
My story is not asking for anyone to stop and hand their money over when they see the ghosts of Socorro walking by in the Plaza or standing at a storefront hoping for a buck or two from a kind stranger.
Our ghosts are someone’s baby boy or girl. Someone’s daddy or mom, grandfather or grandmother. I’ve seen my share of grief in that last few years but I have lots of people who love me and we get through the toughest of times together.
I couldn’t imagine having emotional and psychological problems and living it all alone on the streets. All I’m asking everyone to do is smile at our ghosts, call them by name or ask them what their name is, and perhaps offer them help or a phone number to a place where they might sleep inside and have a real dinner. Every city, village and town has ghosts.
Their struggles are beyond our comprehension, but at the very least we can speak to them with respect and remind them that just because they have fallen does not mean they are a lesser person to their peers. A tiny bit of love taken from our hearts and given to the lost, mean everything.
You can give the ghosts my personal cell number 418-5070, or give yours to them too. What will our legacy be if we don’t stop and reach out to these unfortunate neighbors and fellow human beings?
El Fantasma de Socorro is out there every day and every night, all alone. El Fantasma se llama Ruben. I remember him standing in his Police dress blues with his great big smile and a wonderful future ahead of him.
Ruben is my friend forever, and I will never stop caring about his health and welfare. We must never stop caring for one of ours, ever. Maybe if enough of us show him that we really do care, he won’t fade into the background and go to that sad place with all of the other ghosts that walked the streets of Socorro before him. Just maybe, he might find himself again.
Introduce yourself to him. He’s smart, compassionate, loving and a genuinely good human being who has just lost his way. Invest one breath in Ruben’s plight – and simply say hello and smile.
Don’t look through him or past him. For better or worse, the ghosts are children of Socorro and human beings who are struggling through this often difficult and lonely place we call life. They are not alone. The ghosts of Socorro are living their nightmare right in front of our eyes. Take the time to tell them you know they are there.
Take a moment to smile and offer your hand in friendship. Your kind voice and words of hope could mean the difference between life and death. All it takes is having the courage to truly care.
There, but for the Grace of God …

No comments:

Post a Comment