It was only for about an hour, though. Times are tough, but not THAT tough. I’m one of the lucky ones, I reckon.
I met with the director of The Friends of the Homeless – a fixture in one of Kinston’s far from prominent neighborhoods. I’ve met with this man several times in the past month to do stories on an agency making a lofty donation to his place. Real nice guy, this Jasper Newborn.
College educated. Military veteran. Could probably do anything he wanted, but he chose more than 20 years ago to manage a shelter for societal rejects.
I use the term “societal rejects” earnestly here. They are, but that’s not a label I put on them. Most are drug users, smell bad and behave poorly. They’re not welcome in businesses and the general public – also known as “society” – would prefer to not have them around.
But Newborn chooses to give them a roof over their head. That’s his life. He’s also got a Godson whom he’s not related to – a little boy whose father is in jail and mother isn’t fit to raise. Again, this 60-year-old man does this by choice.
I visited the shelter to talk to him about the holiday donations and to get the low-down on the logistics of the facility. I’ll admit, it was a more of a feature than a news story. But what are you going to do on a Sunday?
The whole time, I kept getting caught up in what a selfless individual it takes to do what he does. I’m sure he earns a modest living doing it. I’m also sure he earns a lot of respect from people. But it was blatantly obvious to me the only paycheck he concerned himself with was how happy he made others.
Societal rejects. People brisk by these individuals on the street. Most, myself included at times, hope to avoid speaking to them at all costs. They’ll pretend they don’t hear these rejects call out to them as they get into their cars at the gas station. Probably, most definitely most of the time, they’re just asking for money, non-societal rejects think.
No one would give a damn if they just wanted to pay a compliment.
At this shelter, though, they are embraced by a different atmosphere. People like Newborn give them a shot. They give them the benefit of the doubt.
“People are people,” I hear Tim Russert’s father say in the famed journalist’s memoir about his dad, “and if they like you, they’re going to give you the benefit of the doubt.”
Not only does Newborn give most the benefit of the doubt, but he gives everyone the chance to earn his regard. I don’t know which is better; I do know the latter is less common.
I try to be like Newborn. I tell myself I do my job to help people, and that is actually why I do what I do, but I’m not nearly as direct about it as a man like Newborn.