By Bill McGinty
June 23, 2011
There is a man sitting on the park bench, I think he has been there all night. He smells awfully like the storm drain and his face is masked in pain. The children say that he is crazy, they want to stop to call him names. They don’t know that he was famous once or the source of his fame.
There is not a waterfall, a single lake or stream that does not have a picture painted by his hand. He has recorded Pike County with all its color and beauty and dressed in every season and for all time. You cannot name a building with any historic significance that has not been detailed in all its complexity in the town of Milford by so fine an artist. His paintings number in the thousands, illustrations in so many publications, but there were no shows or exhibitions. This was a journeyman artist, grinding out a living with his raw talent. Famed at West Point where his oil paintings were purchased by Colonels and Generals and traveled to the furthest corners of the land.
He is the last of the Hudson Valley School of artists, whose fine detail recorded the beauty of our finest places from the Hudson to Lake George, Pike County to Yellowstone Park. His eyes are failing now, his health declined, he can’t remember anymore and his balance is unsure.
There should be a place for him; some shelter from the storm, but he lost his health and then his apartment, so now the bench is his home. Welfare say they can do nothing. He falls between the cracks! He is too young for Medicare, too old in wear and tear. Last week he went to the hospital, right to the ER. They told him he had cracked ribs and deep congestion; then sent him out through the door into the night. He tried to walk home to Milford, but fell upon the road. Two cops picked him up and dropped him at the park. There he spent the night. He’s the man on the park bench, without any place to go. He’s the Jesus of Milford, I just thought you’d like to know.
They said last week we give Pakistan 20 billion a year. It seems like a lot. Makes you wonder why we can’t look after our own poor, so they don’t live their days on a park bench. I asked a lot of questions this week, about what is available in Pike County for the homeless. Apparently, the answer is ‘nothing’. There is no homeless shelter, no place for them to go. There is no half-way house or any place that will care for the poor, the lost and the homeless. That makes me wonder about the endless stream of politicians, who year after year promise so much, but perhaps not for the poor and not for an old artist living on a park bench.
There are empty houses all over Pike County owned by the banks. They lie empty, many falling into decay. No one lives there. No one wants them. I hope there are a thousand voices from the good people of Pike County reading this article who this week will shout: “Give us a house and we will shelter our poor! Give us a roof and we will do the rest!”
There’s a man on the park bench. His face is lined in pain. I think that he’s my brother!
I feel we are all to blame.
[Bill McGinty is the pastor of the Good Shepherd, Church in Milford. You can contact him on 570-296-8123. or 110 W.Catharine Street, Milford. 18337.]