I was driving to the Las Vegas Bowl Saturday and given I was in no rush to get out to Sam Boyd Stadium for its football farewell, I decided to take the streets rather than the freeway.
During my journey, I passed by the Las Vegas Rescue Mission. On the roof is a sign in the form of a cross that says “Jesus Saves.” Every time I see that sign, I think of the famous words echoed throughout New England during the early 1970s — “Jesus saves … and Espo scores on the rebound” an ode to Boston Bruins legend and hockey Hall of Famer Phil Esposito.
Outside the mission, there were a few down-on-their-luck folks standing around, perhaps waiting for the doors to open to grab supper on a chilly but not oppressively cold afternoon on the first day of winter.
It got me thinking.
It’s Christmas. Many of us are fortunate to have a good life. I know I am in the majority of those who are fortunate to have my health, have a good job, have a loving family and great friends in my small universe. I am blessed with awesome co-workers here at Gaming Today who I have great admiration and respect for.
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But then I took another glance in my rear-view mirror as I continued on West Bonanza Road and saw those homeless folks. I don’t know their stories, but something inside of me would love to know. Were they successful and one day society dealt them a bad hand? Were they always battling poverty and running uphill in their lives? Did they come to Las Vegas from elsewhere in hopes of turning things around and haven’t quite been able to? Have they given up and have accepted their fate, be it as it may?
If you’ve lived here for any length of time, you know how giving a community Las Vegas is. Whether it’s donating to a toy drive or a sweater drive or making a financial contribution to a local charity, this is a city that never fails to look after its residents.
Chet Buchanan, the popular local morning drive DJ who annually climbs a 30-foot scaffold to bring awareness and exposure to KLUC radio’s toy drive, said last Friday there had been thousands of bicycles donated and 41 semitrailers filled with toys for underprivileged kids in our community who will have at least something under their tree Christmas Day. Goodie Two Shoes, a local charity that provides footwear for children, had thousands of pairs of shoes, sneakers, boots and other footwear donated.
And on and on it goes. The Golden Knights do their part. So do the Raiders. UNLV student-athletes visit hospitals. All over the valley, toys, clothes, food, gift cards and money are collected to help those in need.
And for those of you who don’t live here, you’d be surprised at the number of people in Las Vegas who are in need. Like many major cities in North America, and I include Canada when I say this, having seen firsthand the many sleeping on the streets in Vancouver, Winnipeg, Edmonton, Toronto and Ottawa, that nation’s capital, Las Vegas is dealing with a huge homeless problem.
People lack the ability to find affordable housing. So they improvise. My friend and former Review-Journal colleague John L. Smith recently wrote in the Huffington Post about 300-plus people who live underground in diversion tunnels meant to take the rainwater during our monsoon season and send it away from the streets to avoid flooding.
Another former R-J colleague, Briana Erickson, recently wrote about a man who lives in an abandoned mine near Boulder City. He was once a very successful person who fell upon hard times and he has no desire to climb back up the mountain again, so he lives underground too.
You read these stories and it breaks your heart. Yes, some of the damage is self-inflicted — drugs, alcohol, gambling, a relationship gone bad — and some of it is due to falling through society’s cracks. But sometimes we forget that they’re human beings too and I’m sure if they could get off the streets, out of the tunnels and mines, they would.
However, I’m sure there are some who don’t want to get off the streets. They’ve become conditioned to live their lives that way and they have accepted their fate.
So as you enjoy the holidays, watching the NBA, trying to get your wagers home, take a minute and think about the less fortunate, especially the kids who are in a predicament not of their own making. And maybe open up your wallet and get on the computer and make a small donation to Catholic Charities, the Salvation Army or any number of organizations whose good work extends beyond Christmas and goes on the other 364 days of the year.
Trust me, it’ll leave you with a good feeling inside.
On behalf of myself, our owner Bill Paulos, our general manager and managing editor Howard Barish and the entire GT family, a very Merry Christmas. Happy Hanukkah and Happy Kwanza to you and your family.
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