In Memorium

During today’s lunchtime ride as I was passing by Luther Place Memorial Church, located at in Thomas Circle, a number of handmade signs caught my attention. So, of course, I stopped to take a closer look and find out more.

The signs contained only names, with no other information at all. So later after my ride I Googled one of the names, but with no results. So I tried Googling a few of the names together. It was then that I discovered that the names were those of individuals in D.C. who passed away last year and were homeless at the time of their deaths. There were 45 deaths in 2017 of homeless people who lived here in the nation’s capital.

As I thought about those people, I also thought about another death that occurred earlier this week, that of the Reverend Billy Graham. Rev. Graham was 99 years old, and passed away peacefully in the long-time family home in Montreat, North Carolina, where he and his wife, Ruth, raised their children. He had plenty of food to eat, and a warm bed in which to sleep. And he was surrounded by and taken care of by his family in his final years since retiring. And people all over the world grieved his death, many having heard about it through the worldwide news coverage of his passing.

In stark contrast to the Rev. Graham’s death, the deaths of our homeless neighbors here in D.C. occurred under very different circumstances. These men and women often had little to no food to eat, no warm bed in which to sleep, and no family members to care for them. They even suffered the same indignity in death as they did in their final days or years of this life, that of not having a home.

Their names were Chris Mason, Darius Duncan, Duane “Joey” Henderson, Galaxina Robinson, James King, Lisa Jennings, Mark Jenkins, Michael Kelley, Michael Dunne, “MS”, Mweane Sikuzote, Nick, Norman Anders, Joseph Watkins, Wilkie “Bill” Woodard, as well as thirty additional unnamed city residents. And very few people knew about them, in life or in death.

And sadly, these neighbors’ deaths while homeless are from just 2017. There were 51 others the previous year, and 41 more the year before that. As this information sunk in, it made me question how in the capital of the richest nation in the world, a progressive city that has declared itself to be a human rights city, this can continue to occur. But I don’t have the answer to that anymore than I have the answer to preventing school shootings like the one that occurred last week at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

While I don’t have the answers to these problems, I think they are caused by or the side effects of the same thing – the fact that evil exists in this world. And even if there isn’t a solution to the problem of evil, an improvement can occur. But for that to happen we each must try to recognize the different ways in which evil manifests itself, whether it be through commission or omission, and then vigilantly oppose it wherever and whenever we see it.

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