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Negative Labels

February 22, 1987

The labeling of street people with negative terms reminds me of an episode in my life. It was a loss to the coal miners in their little Maryland town when their store burned down. That was in 1927. It was a greater loss to Joe, the slow-witted brother of the owner, whose home was a room behind the store. No relative of Joe's would give him 1629513839clean," they said.

So my grandfather offered a home to Joe. "That's what a man should do--help the poor," he said. Remember those years? Times were bad when the mines were closed, and there were summers when the rocky soil didn't produce enough hay for the horse or two cows. My grandfather shared whatever we had with Joe, or others, who were without work and were "down and out."

We grandchildren were never permitted to make fun of Joe's peculiarities. We learned the meaning of tolerance. Did Joe grow with this love? I would say yes. The important part is that he was not a wandering, nameless person for the rest of his life.

DOROTHY BARRUS

Camarillo

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