Barriers and Cell Phones


               A few months ago, I dropped my phone in the toilet. I will spare you the details of this mishap and say only that the small computer I use to entertain myself (and avoid social situations) was no longer functioning. As a stereotypical twenty something, the prospect of being without a functioning smart phone for more than ten minutes seemed more than I could handle. Thus I hastily made my way to a store to purchase a new phone. Within minutes of arrival I had picked out a phone only to realize that I could not afford the $250 price tag, and was forced to wait for my paycheck to arrive two days later. For two days I lamented the awful situation I had found myself in, often wondering what I had done to deserve this fate seemingly worse than death. Two whole days without the ability to check my social media accounts any moment I wanted, it was rough. Oh, what pain privilege can bring.

               I was recently reminded of this situation during a conversation with a friend of mine in downtown. The young man I was talking with is, at first glance at least, a stereotypical “gutter punk”. Crusty Carhartt pants, shirt with the logo of some underground punk band, beat up sneakers, tattoos, and a skateboard in hand at all times. As I have progressively gotten to know this young man, I have learned that he is an incredibly hard worker, is quite introspective, and brings a genuinely unique voice to our community. As we sat in my car outside the entrance to his hidden camp, he told me about his life, how he came to live on the streets, and how desperately he wants to do something else. For a number of years, he has dreamed of getting a job, getting indoors, and someday having the means to help other people who find themselves in similar situations.

              Throughout the conversation my friend mentioned a few of the barriers that were in the way of him getting a job. For him the barriers were mostly monetary in nature, and came to a grand total of just under $250. The amount of money I am willing to tell myself is necessary to spend on some luxury item or another, is the barrier keeping my friend from being eligible for employment. I complained incessantly about waiting two days to buy a cell phone, while my friend has been waiting YEARS for an opportunity.

             As I have had the privilege of getting to know this young man, I have learned that the greatest desire of his heart is to help other people. His goal is not to get a job, make a million dollars, and live in a mansion. His goal is to get himself to a place of stability so that he can help others. I wonder what my friend would do with that $250. Would it mean a job? Getting into housing? Achieving his dream of starting his own non-profit? I truly believe my friend is going to make this world a better place. He already is. I cannot imagine how is life, and the lives of those around him, would change for the better if he had $250. As for me, I bought a phone.  

              I think a homeless man, who lived a few thousand years ago, had it right when he said “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”