By George Smith
There are people in our society whom too few people think about, much less care about.
It is sad and even loathsome.
What have you done, will you do today and into the future to make a positive difference in some’s life without expectations of some form of “prid pro pro”?
I haven’t thought of this in years but the memory hit me this morning.
Twenty-five years ago, I was the new publisher of the Las Cruces Sun-Times in New Mexico. In learning about the town, I was shocked to discover Dona Anna County had the highest per capita homeless population in the nation!
Why? It boiled down to three key factors: Good weather year-round (it only rained an average of 28 days a year); a benevolent population that were tolerant of those less fortunate than themselves; and, a benign city and county government that cared not if a disproportionate percent of the population slept in parks, parking lots fields or under bridges.
Every day driving my 5.6 miles to work,
from my isolated hacienda on a golf course, I saw numerous men, women and children panhandling by the roadside, at traffic lights, in parking lots of convenience stores.
One day, not out of a revelation of do-goodliness, but out of a focused business need — I wanted to increase circulation — I, and several of my managers, solicited and signed up more than 20 homeless people to sell newspapers in specific locations.
The deal was simple: Sell papers as independent contractors for 50 cents; the contractor kept a quarter. They all had to fill out contractor forms and were responsible for taxes. The deal was not catch-as-catch-can: in the contract, they acknowledged they were representatives of the paper and could be dismissed under certain conditions, moral and at the discretion of management. We bought the all collared shirts with the Sun-Times logo and told them to go forth, smile amd make money.
The paper’s circulation jumped 15 percent the first month of the experiment and I was a corporate hero.
But not in Las Cruces.
I was summoned to a meeting in the mayor’s office and lambasted for causing a nuisance by selling newspapers around town, “causing problems at traffic lights” and other areas.
I pointed out the homeless that had been panhandling at traffic lights were now employed and offering a service.
And, they were earning more money to spend in local businesses.
They put me on double-naught secret probation but let me continue the program. Within a year, several of those homeless hawkers were full-time employees of the paper.
The only point is sometimes people need help. Maybe, just maybe, you can be an integral part of the solution to a problem.
Many of us have a little extra time to think in this era of social distancing. Use a little of the time to think what you can do help others…now and in the future.
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