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Archive for December 19th, 2009

Davie manages a smile despite the ice sickles that have formed in his beard.

Today’s recipient embodies the very spirit of the mission that I set out to serve.  I hope that you enjoy this one as much as I enjoyed meeting with Davie.

I had mixed emotions about heading out today to find a recipient due to the eight inches (and counting) of snow that has fallen.  Daniela and I decided to venture out and see who we would find.  The first person we approached declined to participate, she said she was very skeptical of any type of “offer” that she receives from people that she does not know.

A few minutes later we saw a Street Sense vendor.  Street Sense is a newspaper which serves as a vehicle for elevating voices and public debate on issues relating to poverty while also creating economic opportunities for people who are experiencing homelessness in the community.  David, a Scottish lad from Glasgow in his twenties who came here to pursue the “American dream,” was sporting an ice sickle laden beard.   I explained what I was doing and he agreed to accept my $10.

I could probably write a year’s worth of blogging just on Davie.  What an interesting person he is.  He left Glasgow back in the spring and arrived in Baltimore and made his way to California.  Then he decided to make his way back east.  With virtually no money, he managed most of his journey by bus, hitchhiking, walking, and whatever else you could imagine.  He arrived in DC in early October and is living on the streets near 14th and H.  Davie is joining the US military to go serve in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Aside from paying fairly well, there is a program that you receive US citizenship if you complete so many years of service, I believe Davie told me it was four years.  He hopes to depart in a few weeks.

I asked Davie what he was going to do with the $10 and he said he was going to put it toward a bus ticket to NYC to complete some things he needs to enlist and go abroad.

As I said, I could go on about Davie…but will just make a brief list of the interesting things I have learned about him.

  • Davie spent almost five years in the Légion Etrangère (French Foreign Legion).  As part of his training, he spent 6 months in French Guiana for jungle training.
  • Davie’s grandfather served in Heinrich Himmler’s Sicherheitsdienst, the nazi intelligence organization.
  • Davie has no family that he knows of.  He has two brothers that were more than 20 years older than him that he doesn’t know very well and has not seen or heard from in years.  His parents were killed in a highway accident and he explained his uncle was killed as a result of sectarian violence in Glasgow.  Davie, a catholic and self-confessed former hooligan, was injured in sectarian violence.  His leg was slashed with an ax years ago.
  • Davie admittedly said that he refused to interact with Protestants in his homeland almost all of his life; however, rather recently he overcame some of his feelings and established some relationships with some Protestants in Glasgow.
  • As those of you who are aware the fierce sectarianism that exists in Glasgow, you might guess that he is a die-hard Celtic (this is soccer, not the NBA!) fan.  Their “enemies” are the Rangers.  He let me know there was a match between the two clubs on January 3 and advised of the severe violence that was sure to occur.
  • Davie use to follow the Celtic team around Europe…occasionally being ejected, arrested, or sent home.  There was a certain amount of passion that Davie exhuberates when he speaks about the Celtic club.  He reminisced about his youth days when the anticipation of physically attacking the other club’s fans would burn inside him.  I use the word “passion”, but it was clear that his passion took the form of rage and violence.
  • He not only sells Street Sense, but is a published author for them.  He has three 3 articles published in the December 9-22nd issue, including a poem.  One of his articles talks about what a typical day is like for a homeless person in DC and there is even a picture of David there.  He is a good writer and I strongly encourage everyone in the DC area to pick up a copy of this issue!  For those of you not in DC, it should be available online in February.  They have a delay so that they do not lose sales of the print version.
  • Davie does not panhandle.  He doesn’t believe in that.  He feels that you should earn your money legitimately.
  • Including my $10, he said that he has $23 to his name.
  • Davie has been beat up and mugged several times in the US.
  • His favorite spot in the US is Montana.  He loved the scenery and the crystal clear water coming down the mountainside.  His least favorite place was Albuquerque, New Mexico where he was mugged several times in one evening!
  • He is ineligible for the US Air Force due to his tattoo on his neck.
  • Sometimes Davie sells single cigarettes on the street just to get some money to get by.
  • He does not drink or do drugs…well, he smirked and admitted in his rather mild Scottish accent that he has a beer every 2 months or so to “keep the kidney stones away!”  Back in his youth, he said he was quite a mess and spent some time in juvenile detention centers.

I feel like I could go on forever….but I have to bring this to a temporary closing for now.  We were chatting in front of a Starbucks that had closed do to the weather.  There was something sharply ironic in standing with a man who has $23 to his name and watch dozens of Washingtonians nudge by us only to see that the Starbucks was closed and hear them grumble that they can not get their $5 Skinny Hazelnut Latte with soy milk.

Snow blanketed the DC area

We finally stopped our chat, as it was very cold and the snow was making my little 5” x 3” notebook nearly illegible.  I wish everyone out there could spend time with Davie.  He is an eccentric fellow who reminds me a little of Christopher McCandless (Into the Wild) in his abandonment of material goods in exchange for his exploration of the US.  I got his email address and begged him to keep me posted on how things go.  He uses the internet at the public library, which was unfortunately closed today due to the snow storm.  I hope he comments here for you all to get a taste of who this very interesting young man is.  I will keep you posted on his adventures as well.

UPDATE Jan. 25, 2010: You can see a video update with Davie on Facebook.

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