Your Health & Happiness: Young people and HIV: the evidence is clear - act now
Study identifies prevention interventions set to go
Toronto - For the first time, the effectiveness of
different types of HIV interventions in schools, health services, media,
communities, and for young people most at risk of HIV have been reviewed and
graded for their usefulness. The review Steady, Ready, GO!, launched at the XVI
International AIDS Conference, identifies what should be done now to reduce HIV
infection in young people, and achieve the global targets set by world leaders.
The 2001 UN General Assembly Special Session on AIDS adopted universal access
goals for young people: by 2010, 95% of young people to have access to the
information, skills and services that they need to decrease their vulnerability
However, despite these commitments, young people (15-24 years) remain at the
centre of the AIDS pandemic in terms of transmission, vulnerability and impact,
with an estimated 4-5,000 people in this age group acquiring HIV every day.
Over 80 studies were reviewed, from different developing countries and
settings. The interventions have been classified in a way that makes the
evidence easy for policy makers and programme managers to understand and use.
From the mass of evidence available, the effectiveness of different types of
interventions have been graded as:
GO! (stop asking for more evidence and get on and do it!)
Ready (implement widely but evaluate carefully)
Steady (not ready yet for implementation because more research and development
The review makes recommendations for policy makers, programme managers and
“Steady, Ready, GO! provides a clear agenda for action for governments around
the world if they want to prevent HIV among young people,” says Joy Phumaphi,
assistant director-general, Family and Community Health at WHO. “In light of
the available evidence, governments will need to have a very good reason for
not acting. We know what works and we should be doing it. We should not confuse
lack of implementation with lack of evidence.”
This publication will be as important for NGOs as it is for governments. NGOs
frequently have very limited resources and are often working in a politically
charged environment. Steady, Ready, GO! will help advocates move beyond
opinions and moral judgements to scientific fact, and provide much needed
information to young people themselves.
“With 40% of all new adult HIV infections occurring among young people aged
15-24, more investment in comprehensive HIV prevention efforts for young people
is absolutely critical. We need youth-specific HIV prevention programmes to be
based on what has been proven to work and tailored to countries’ individual
epidemics and realities,” said Purnima Mane, UNAIDS director of policy,
evidence and partnerships.
Among the interventions that should be widely implemented because they have
been classified as GO! or Ready are:
In schools: curriculum-based interventions, led by adults, that are based on
defined quality criteria, can have an impact on knowledge, skills and
In health services: interventions can increase young people’s use of services
provided that service providers are trained and changes are made in health
facilities to ensure that they are “adolescent-friendly”.
In the mass media: interventions can have an impact on knowledge and behaviours
if they involve a range of media, for example TV and radio supported by print,
and are explicit about sensitive topics but in line with cultural
In communities: increased knowledge and skills can be achieved through
interventions that are explicitly directed to young people and are delivered
through existing organizations and structures.
For young people most at-risk: interventions that provide information and
services through static and outreach facilities can help achieve the global
goals for young people most at risk of HIV, such as young sex workers, young
injecting drug users or young men who have sex with men.
The review was carried out under the auspices of the UNAIDS Inter-agency Task
Team on Young People, in which WHO has been working with the London School of
Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, UNAIDS Secretariat and key UNAIDS co-sponsors,
notably UNFPA and UNICEF.
The Doctor's Consultation: Siamese Twins
by Dr. Iain Corness
Siamese twins are always newsworthy, and with the advances
in surgical techniques, the little babies have a greater chance of independent
The incidence is about 1 in 400,000 births, though it is difficult to get
exact figures. Stillborn Siamese twins have been disposed of and the mothers
not told of the anatomical problems. In Russia there was the case of conjoined
twins that were kept in a pediatric institution and the mother told they had
died at birth. Much superstition is still evident today.
The major deciding factor in their prognosis is where the joining is, and how
many common organs are shared. The most common varieties encountered are
joined at chest and abdomen (28 percent), joined at chest (18.5 percent),
joined at abdomen (10 percent), parasitic twins (10 percent) and joined at the
head (6 percent). Of these, about 40 percent were stillborn, and 60 percent
liveborn, although only about 25 percent of those that survived at birth lived
long enough to be candidates for surgery.
Despite the name, Siamese twins can occur in any country, but the most
publicized conjoined twins did come from Siam. They were called Chang and Eng
Bunker, born in the Mekong valley of a Chinese father and a Thai-Chinese
mother in 1811. The surname came later after they had lived in America for
some time, as in 1811 Siamese people did not use any family name.
In 1829, they were discovered in old Siam by British merchant Robert Hunter
and exhibited as a curiosity during a world tour. Such was the fate of anyone
who had some deformity in those days, and live adult Siamese twins would have
been very rare, with most never making it through to adult life.
Chang and Eng were joined at the sternum by a small piece of cartilaginous
tissue. Their livers were fused but independently complete. Although 19th
century medicine did not have the surgical know-how, modern advances in
surgical technology would have easily allowed them to be separated today.
Upon termination of their contract with their discoverer, they successfully
went into business for themselves, which is really quite amazing, considering
their origin in rural Siam. In 1839, while visiting Wilkesboro, North
Carolina, the twins were attracted to the town and settled there, becoming
naturalized United States citizens.
With their world tours, they had become wealthy and they settled on a
plantation, bought slaves, and adopted the name “Bunker.” They were
accepted as respected members of the community. On April 13, 1843, they
married two sisters: Chang to Adelaide Yates and Eng to Sarah Anne Yates.
Chang and his wife had ten children; Eng and his wife had twelve.
Unfortunately, the sisters squabbled and eventually two separate households
were set up just west of Mount Airy, North Carolina - the twins would
alternate spending three days at each home. During the American Civil War
Chang’s son Christopher and Eng’s son Stephen both fought for the
Confederacy. The twins died on the same day in 1874.
One of the earliest documented cases of conjoined twins are Mary and Eliza
Chulkhurst, also known as the Biddenden Maids. Born in 1100, the sisters lived
for 34 years in Biddenden, County of Kent, England. Mary and Eliza, though
often depicted as joined at the hip and shoulders, were likely joined at the
buttocks and lower backs. After the death of one sister, doctors hoped to save
the life of the other by separating them surgically; however, the surviving
twin refused, declaring, “As we came together, we will go together.” She
died several hours later. Upon their deaths, a local church received 20 acres
of land. In remembrance of their generosity, small cakes and biscuits
imprinted with the image of the sisters were given to the poor every Easter
Sunday. Nearly 900 years after their deaths, the Biddenden Maids are still
honored by this unique service.
Siamese twins elicit very intense responses, with the ethics in separating
them still being discussed. If it is a simple surgical situation, then the
conflict is not as great as to when there may be shared organs, making it such
that one twin would have to be sacrificed for the other, but if an operation
is not done, both will die. A moral dilemma.
I enjoy your column. My only criticism is there is not enough and not
often enough. These letters and your replies are lessons in life. Many
writers seem to feel that they have a unique situation and that it can
only happen to them and this location. These letters could be multiplied
by as many countries as there are in the world. Many I feel should feel
lucky that they lose a few amounts of money. In many areas there is a scam
called “marriage” that can strip one of not only their funds, but
their property, and future funds (dependent on the laws of the country). I
feel you are providing a service and advice that could well be appropriate
around the world. The wise “petal” would do well to have a laugh, but
remember some of your words of wisdom. There is a deeper message.
Dear Grateful student,
I sort of get the feeling that there is a “deeper message” in your
letter too, my Petal. Are you still bitter after a divorce? In many
western countries the man does not fare well, does he, as he farewells all
his money and everything he had worked for. However, I do believe there
are some aspects of the man-woman relationships in this country that seem
more prevalent than in the west. You do not often hear of tourists to the
UK deciding to buy the barmaid at the Chicken Plucker’s Arms a Triumph
motorcycle after he had a few pints of bitter on his first night, do you.
A kind of bitter after-taste, I suppose! However, thank you for the kind
words and I’ll talk to the editor about giving me more pages!
It’s hard to believe some people, that letter from “Genuinely
Concerned” and his supposed “Real Problem”, surely he lied about his
age, I would have thought he was aged 12 not 22! Fancy not realizing his
“Girl” would want to have her daughter living with her. He must be so
naive, enough said I guess. As for “Harry the Helmet”, his helmets
must be gold plated I reckon! Everyone leaves their helmet in the basket,
never worrying about it being locked up or stolen. I’m an old guy and
getting a bit forgetful, I’ve lost track of the times I’ve left the
key in the ignition of my bike, I usually return to find someone nearby
running up to me with the key they had taken for safe keeping. I have
never met such honesty as I have in Thailand, I will write a book one day
about my experiences, (well, not all, wink wink nudge nudge)! Seriously
though Hillary, you know from my previous letters how much I Love Your
Country and its people. In another country “Harry the Helmet” would
return to find not only his helmet gone, but the bike also!
You obviously don’t live in Pattaya, do you Petal, as helmet-theft is
rife down there, where there are only 500,000 motorcycles and 250,000
helmets. Since the local boys in brown do check for the wearing of same,
as opposed to Chiang Mai, those who are lightheaded apply the five finger
discount test before venturing outside. It is the law of supply and
demand, though in this case, it’s demand and supply. Shopping center car
parks are an endless source of supply, and so much cheaper than buying
them at a bike shop! Mind you, many of the helmets look as if they would
double for an ice cream container, they are so flimsy. Perhaps they are
ice cream containers that are later used as helmets after the vanilla and
strawberry has been eaten? Nothing would surprise. Finally, I should
caution you about the key left in the ignition on your motorcycle. I know
you are impressed with the honesty of the majority of Thais you have met,
but there is a minority who would be happy to ride off to Cambodia on your
motorcycle. A glance at the first few pages of this newspaper will soon
What do you do about your husband drinking too much? He has a drink after
work every day, drinks with dinner and then drinks after dinner at home,
or goes down the pub with his mates. This is surely too much? He can’t
be doing himself much good with all this drinking. Please don’t suggest
I go drinking with him as I do not drink.
You’ve got it all wrong, my petal! Hillary doesn’t have a husband, so
I don’t do anything! I sent the last one packing years ago – but it
wasn’t for drinking after dinner. If you’re worried about hubby’s
health, then get him to go for a check-up. If you’re worried about what
he’s doing while out drinking, then go with him. Nobody said you have to
drink alcohol. All of the pubs Hillary has a quiet one in also sell orange
juice and soft drinks. Honestly, I think you are the one with the problem,
my love. Time to lighten up and look at your own attitudes, darling.
Camera Class: Buying a digital
by Harry Flashman
A friend of mine is going to Japan and wants to record the
trip he is taking with the family. Atmospheric shots of Mt. Fuji, no doubt, plus
countless shots of his daughter in Disneyland or Disneyworld or whatever. He
approached me and asked for my advice in buying a camera. This was not a
difficult problem to handle.
Right from the start I knew it should be a compact camera and not an SLR. Why?
Principally because my friend is not the slightest bit interested in
photography. Sell him the idea that he should take one camera body with all the
modes, including manual over-ride (and the instruction book), and a couple of
lenses is a waste of time. Why? For this man an automatic everything makes much
more sense. A compact which is small enough to put in his pocket, and has all
the capabilities that he will ever need to get family travel album shots. Point
and shoot is the name of the compact game.
With compacts becoming more and more sophisticated, just what should you look
for in your purchase of a compact? For my money, the deciding factor is still in
the lens. No matter how fancy the electrogizmos inside, if there is a rotten
piece of glass up front, you will get lousy quality photographs. The good
quality lenses come from the good quality manufacturers. If you’ve never heard
of the camera and it is very cheap, then there’s every chance its got a cheap
and nasty lens too. Like everything, you get what you pay for! Most of the
better brands have lenses that go as wide as f 2.8, and you won’t go wrong
After that, what else should you look for in a compact? Well Autofocus (AF) is
important these days, rather than fixed focus as some very cheap cameras have.
You should also look for an integrated flash unit that can be turned off, as
well as able to be turned on for use in daylight.
Other options such as date imprinting, are for my mind anyway, just a nuisance,
but one option that should be explored is that of a zoom lens. Now while most
compacts have a very limited “zoom” range, it is still a useful thing to
have in your camera. Many times the subject is just that little bit too far
away, and the ability to bring it a little closer is invaluable.
Now I haven’t mentioned the digital versus film debate. Today in this section
of the market there is no contest. A digital compact beats the old film compacts
hands down. Smaller, more functions and amazing capabilities. I have to admit
that I often use our family compact digital, (which is small enough to slip in
my pocket) just because it is so convenient. Particularly for the kind of shots
my friend will take in Japan.
So what should he look for? A camera from a known brand with at least 4
megapixels capability. A zoom lens, and get the biggest memory stick/card that
will fit in. I will suggest he gets two – one of 256 kb and the other 512 kb.
That way you will have a back-up and not be left trying to delete items from the
card when you have filled it, when there are still more shots to take. Getting
Mickey Mouse to continue to stand there while you fiddle around scrolling and
deleting does not bear thinking about.
Another factor to be taken into consideration is the size of the viewing screen
at the back. Get the biggest you can. It makes life easier when you are
composing the shot, and finally make sure it has a brightly visible focusing
beam so you can see what you are taking when it is dark.
All that lot will set you back between 10 and 20 thousand baht, and I suggest
you look at Canon Ixus, Nikon Coolpix and Fuji Finepix for starters. By the way,
you will also find that whatever you buy today will be superseded tomorrow and
it will be cheaper too. That’s just one of the ironies of life. Our Ixus 40
cost 20,000 baht two years ago, and the new Ixus 65 can be purchased for around
15,000 baht today!
Money Matters: Black Gold and Yellow Gold
MBMG International Ltd.
We like Philip Coggan, investment editor
of the FT. Not only was he one of the first writers to identify the
exceptional risk reward characteristics of the diversified approach taken by
our core managers, Miton Optimal but he generally writes thoughts provoking
and well-informed pieces.
The latest of which to catch our eye was an article this week about
commodity investment. Coggan quite rightly identified that this has been
driven by a move from structural bear to structural bull market in
commodities alongside a conviction that institutional investors should be
diversifying away from equities and bonds, and into alternative assets.
Coggan believes that this has been a profound change which has altered the
characteristics of the market.
Traditionally, futures prices have been lower than spot prices; a state
known as backwardation. This is because more producers want to hedge their
future output than consumers want to lock in prices many months ahead.
Indeed, consumers have been willing to pay a premium to get immediate
Keynes noticed this structure and argued that investors could exploit it;
they would be paid a premium for providing liquidity to the market, by
buying the future and holding the contract until its price rose to equal the
spot rate. This is called the “roll yield” and has been put forward as a
good reason for holding commodities, since it is a diversified source of
But the surge of institutional money into the sector has altered its
characteristics. The futures prices of some commodities (notably oil) are
higher than the spot, a state known as contango. The roll yield is negative.
Does that mean the attraction of commodities has diminished?
Not according to Matthew Schwab of AIG. He has looked at commodity price
data over the period July 1959 to March 2006 and has found that periods of
negative roll yield have delivered higher average monthly returns (0.87 per
cent) than those with positive roll yield (0.22 percent).
This is because Schwab argues that the roll yield is not the source of the
premium Keynes identified. Instead, futures prices are lower than the
expected spot price; in other words, if investors expect the spot price for
natural gas will be $11 in December, the price on the December futures
contract will be $10. Provided the futures price remains at a discount to
the expected spot, Schwab argues that it does not matter whether the roll
yield is positive or negative.”
That makes sense - in a static market that results in backwardation - in a
rising market it means a contango. And why wouldn’t properties be subject
to the same inflationary pressures as other materials - in fact the scarcity
and non-renewability of sources of supply of most commodities means that
commodity price inflation should, under normal conditions be rampant.
OK, there are some question marks - we don’t even know how oil is
produced. We have still less of an idea of how much of it is out there or
how we might be able to extract it. Finally, we’re clueless about future
demand and what might drive that. However, our prevailing attitudes to oil
price have been that we can, for the foreseeable future, easily extract more
than we can indefinitely consume - politics allowing.
The markets were so consumed with that idea that when the spot price of oil
broke through $50 last year there was still backwardation in place to the
extent that oil for delivery in 2015 was some 10% cheaper. At the time we
said that anyone who could afford to potentially lock up capital for 10
years could do a lot worse than buy those futures. We’re certainly wishing
that we’d put more of our money where our mouths were.
The yellow stuff is also a conundrum. Unlike money in a bank, it does not
give you anything back. If you have an interest rate of seven percent then
you will double your money every ten years via compound interest, although,
admittedly this may not cover inflation. If you keep gold for ten years then
you have no idea where it will be ... or do you?
If, however, as they have been recently, interest rates were very low which
would you prefer to keep - gold or paper money? Most would go for the former
as it is a tangible object. Governments can produce as much paper as they
like. They cannot do this with gold. There is not an endless supply of the
latter. In fact, it is very limited. Warren Buffet, the Sage of Omaha, could
buy all the gold mined in one year with a single cheque. Despite more
investment going into gold now than has done for the last thirty years
people cannot get enough of it.
Usually, when interest rates are high then gold does not do as well. When
they are low then gold does better. There are anomalies to this. For
instance, in the 1970’s interest rates were high in the Western hemisphere
but gold still managed to go from USD100 per oz. to USD800 per oz. This was
because inflation was also factored into the equation.
As an example, let’s say the things you buy go up 5% per annum through
inflation and you are getting 5% in your savings account then the real
interest rate is actually zero. So, when in 1979, with interest rates at 8%
but inflation at 13% it is not exactly surprising that people went to gold
rather than paper as interest rates were actually minus five percent for the
By 1981, the Fed had managed to change things around and interest rates were
at 15% whilst inflation was at 6%. A year later gold was down under US400
per oz again.
Let’s look at things today. Interest rates are around five percent again.
Inflation is also around this figure. The Fed has said it has basically done
with raising rates any more. Real interest rates are dangerously close to
negative territory again and more and more money is going from cash to gold.
Yes, there will be short term volatility but gold should be part of a
portfolio as it can counter the volatility caused by any equity holdings.
So, which ‘gold’? Both!
The above data and research was compiled from sources believed to be
reliable. However, neither MBMG International Ltd nor its officers can
accept any liability for any errors or omissions in the above article nor
bear any responsibility for any losses achieved as a result of any actions
taken or not taken as a consequence of reading the above article. For more
information please contact Alan Hall on [email protected]
The above data and research was
compiled from sources believed to be reliable. However, neither MBMG
International Ltd nor its officers can accept any liability for any errors
or omissions in the above article nor bear any responsibility for any
losses achieved as a result of any actions taken or not taken as a
consequence of reading the above article. For more information please
contact Alan Hall on [email protected]
Tail waggers: Spaying or neutering – pros and cons part II
by Nienke Parma
Many people claim that once their dog has been neutered
it becomes calmer and more manageable. Studies on the effects of neutering
show similar results, such as those conducted in the 70s by the University
of Pennsylvania and the Canine Studies Institute. This study showed a more
than 70% improvement in the males’ behaviour, regardless of their age.
It turns out that neutered dogs are less likely to mount other dogs and are
more willing to accept authority from the owner or other household members.
Ben Hart’s extensive research at the University of California came up with
the following results: a 50% reduction in marking the house, a 60% reduction
in inter-male aggression, a 60% reduction in mounting people and a 90%
reduction in roaming. That there isn’t a 100% improvement after neutering
is often a result of the learned factors; behaviour is not only influenced
by a dog’s hormones but also by its environment and by what it learns.
Therefore, neutering dogs due to a behaviour problem almost always has to go
together with behaviour modification therapy.
neutered Thai mix.
On the other hand, studies on the effects of spaying show
hardly any improved behaviour, which is probably caused by females being
hormonally active only twice a year. But when spaying concerns bitches under
two years of age with a tendency to domineering and aggression, spaying
negatively influences the behaviour in 40% of the cases. These bitches can
develop an abnormal degree of masculinity with an increase in aggressive
behaviour as a result. When it concerns competitive fights between females
in a multi-bitch household, often starting during periods of heat, spaying
can also make a difference.
However, as with neutering, learned factors play an important role. Spaying
alone will often not give the desired result unless it goes together with
behaviour modification therapy. For bitches younger than 2 years, it’s
best to wait till after the female is both physically and mentally matured.
Any tendencies towards domineering and aggressive behaviour should be
overcome before spaying, meaning they should be provided with a clear and
consistent education from early puppyhood onwards.
Furthermore, hypo-thyroidism can develop after removal of the internal
reproductive organs increasing the chance of mental disorders such as
lethargy, exercise intolerance, mental dullness, aggression, fearfulness and
To summarise, the advantages of spaying and neutering are: the prevention of
unwanted puppies in a world where there are already too many and the
prevention of injuries and illnesses from mating, the prevention of stress
and complications during gestation, whelping and weaning. Also chances of
cancer of the reproductive organs is reduced, and males tend to become
calmer, housebound and manageable, and there is a positive effect where it
concerns inter-female aggression provided that there isn’t already a huge
learned factor involved.
Disadvantages are the increased chances of osteo-sarcoma and
haemangio-sarcoma, incontinence in females and probably in males as well,
infections of the external reproductive organs, skeleton problems,
hypo-thyroidism (with its negative side-effects both on physical and mental
level), and on dominance aggression in females with already a tendency
towards dominant behaviour.
For more information on pets’ health, dog and cat-boarding, dog-training
and behaviour modification counselling, please visit www.luckydogs.info or
contact LuckyDogs: 09 99 78 146.
Life in the Laugh Lane: Good News
by Scott Jones
Bad news is easy to find. Pick up any major
newspaper, made by one species (homo sapiens) destroying another species
(trees) in order to report on how they are destroying themselves: USA vs. Iraq;
Israel vs. Lebanon; Burmese dictators vs. the Karen, the Shan and anyone else
that has lived in their country longer than they have; rich vs. poor,
terrorists vs. the world, this religion vs. that religion; mankind vs. Mother
Nature; rape, murder, bombings, genocide, international theft, piracy and
embezzlement; incessant rap music at high volumes. Has humanity progressed at
all in the past five thousand years? We seem to be the same marauding hordes
with higher tech hatchets.
I prefer to read the Chiangmai Mail when the front page is often
completely devoted to respect for beloved royalty or charitable projects and
presents a gentler life amongst the mayhem. Sure, murder recently made the
headlines, but the victims were 200 chickens, which is pretty much par for any
chicken’s course. The alleged perpetrator, a Canadian gray wolf on the lam
for a month from the Night Safari, “is alive, though weak, and has injured
its leg and genitals” which sounds very similar to other Canadians after an
evening at Spicy’s nightclub. “The starving animal was shot with a
tranquillizer gun” although “starving” seems a bit of a stretch
considering it feasted on 6.66 chickens a day. The Night Safari director
accepted that they made mistakes in allowing the wolf to escape, and, since the
police vowed that if negligence was discovered “the people responsible would
be punished,” I suspect something will happen to their legs and genitals,
perhaps with darts.
I’m glad to be a Good News Reporter to balance the bad and relate a few real
stories - no belly laughs intended, just a smile in your soul and a hint of
hope for humanity.
Mentally challenged Farang saved by Good Samaritan. When I first arrived to
Thailand with a marginal concept of brightly colored baht and their value
compared with dull, boring, American greenbacks, I purchased a pair of
flip-flops on Koh Pan Ngan for sixty baht. I handed three greenish baht bills
to the Thai sales girl and walked out of the shop. She followed me down the
block to give me change of 2,940 baht, since I had given her three
thousand-baht notes instead of three twenties. I asked her to marry me, but she
did not want to spend her life with an idiot.
Mentally challenged Farang saved by flock of Good Samaritans. On a
motorcycle trip through the mountains near Loie, my mate and I chose a route
via a national park, but upon arrival at the gate, were told the road doesn’t
continue through the park to our destination. They showed us an alternate
route, thirty kilometers back where we’d come, and then on another road from
there. An hour later, finally over the mountains, police officers waved us to
the side of the road. You never really know what they’ll want, and I was
ready to reach for baht, but a gleeful policeman said, “You left your wallet
at the national park!” Another hour later, we were back at the park,
surrounded by a bevy of happy Thai men, women and children who were honored to
return my wallet, intact, filled with credit cards and baht. They cared enough
to call and find someone to help strangers they had met for only a moment. I
wanted to take them all home with me, and though they would have been
comfortable on the bike, I can’t quite do Thai-style with seventeen riders.
Vigilante Committee of One springs into action. While parked at a rest area
on a turnpike in Ohio, a friend watched a family get out of their car and dump
their garbage on the grass. Appalled, she jumped out and gathered up their
trash as they drove away. She pursued them on the highway, exited when they
did, followed them all the way through town to their home, and, as the family
walked from their car in the driveway, carried their garbage into the middle of
their yard, scattered it on the lawn and drove away. No words or weapons
necessary, just action!
Read the signs. Stopped at an intersection in Minnesota on her drive home
from work, alone, a fifty-something friend saw a disheveled man holding a sign
that read, “Will work for food.” Her heart took her beyond the fear of the
unknown and any pre-conceived notions of the man’s situation or temperament
as she rolled down her window and held out a twenty-dollar bill. The man looked
her in the eye, folded her fingers around her twenty, smiled and said, “Thank
you, ma’am. Have a nice evening.” Then he walked away. He didn’t want her
money; he wanted to work. That’s what the sign said.
Do unto others... Market Street in San Francisco is a hodge-podge of
streetwalkers, vacant street-talkers, leftover freaks from the Sixties,
homeless beggars, shell-shocked Vietnam vets, snappy accountants and bustling
stockbrokers. While waiting for a bus, I watched two friends, a black man and a
white man, their hard lives written in wrinkles on their faces. One rode in a
wheelchair; one leaned on it and pushed. I don’t remember who was sitting.
The ambulatory man asked someone for a cigarette, lit it and gave it to his
buddy in the wheelchair. He then searched the gutter and found a half-used fag,
which he lit and smoked as he rolled his friend away. He didn’t have much,
but he had a wealth of compassion.
You can’t take it with you. On the flip side of the average, the
everyday, and the have-nots: Warren Buffet recently gave away $40,000,000,000
to charity and medical research. Maybe there is some hope.