Being raised in a Christian home, I learned at a veryyoung age not to judge others by the way theylooked, smelled, or how much money a person had. I wentthrough my high school years without suffering or facingmany of the hardships others were feeling. Never having todeal with any sort of poverty was a blessing that was, andstill is taken for granted by many. Trying to figure out wheremy next meal was going to come from or where I was goingto sleep from one night to the next just wasn’t even athought that crossed my mind.
During my high school days, I was well-liked and didn’treally pay much attention to some of the less fortunatestudents and really had no idea how difficult it was for theirfamilies to carry on during the beginning of a strugglingeconomy. After graduation, I entered the workforce andspent a few years working in the woods, even though myheart was always in the mechanical field. I worked hard andspent as much money as I pleased without the burden ofany major responsibilities or needing to save anything forthe future.
I fell in love with a girl that attended the same school thatI did and in October of nineteen-eighty-five, we becamehusband and wife. I continued working in the woods butnever lost my desire to become a Diesel Mechanic. Sincethe timber industry had fallen off, mostly due toenvironmental issues, I was partially without employment. Ispent the days that I would normally be working, venturingout to find an entry level job that had potential to evolve meinto becoming a Diesel Mechanic.
In early nineteen-eighty-seven, I landed a job washingheavy equipment at a construction equipment rental yardwhere after some time, persistence, and dedicationeventually evolved me into the position of Lead HeavyEquipment Mechanic and a few years later, ServiceManager. The income was good and I climbed right up theladder of success without looking back. I never knew of themany hardships others were facing because I didn’t need toknow and it really didn’t matter much to me.
Being married at a very young age, my wife and I weresetting our lives up with two wonderful children, a home, andnice vehicles; not to mention a fairly decent individualretirement account and plans for an even more fulfillinglifestyle before the age of thirty.
All of that changed in nineteen-ninety-eight when Isuddenly found myself in a divorce where I was left withbasically nothing except my clothes, tools, and a disabledpickup truck. Things slipped downhill even further fromthere as I had already severely broken my leg at a newjob and then, right after the divorce, I developed a seizuredisorder taking me out of the mechanical field completely
With everything falling down all around me, I had noclue as to what the future would hold for me. This suddenawareness of not knowing which way to turn was all newto me and I was in a predicament that was tugging anddragging me straight to the bottom. I didn’t realize that thechallenges others had faced in their lives was the samechallenge I was approaching in my own life.
I spent the next few years living with my parents and othersas I tried to figure out what I would do with the rest of mylife. I really didn’t want to be a burden on anyone and sincethe doctors had placed major restrictions on what I couldand could not do, my hands were tied as far as employmentgoes. I took courses in college to brush up on my computerskills, attended Vocational Rehabilitation through thestate, and tried various jobs, only to have my paychecksslashed in half for child support garnishment.
Not knowing what the future might bring and having noguidance as to where I might end up in life was somethingthat most persons will hopefully never experience. I wasgoing through a major change and didn’t know which wayto turn. The largest part of the next decade I spent manydays and nights learning about life in a way I never wouldhave contemplated before.
I always thought of homeless persons as nothing morethan lazy people who had no goals or drive to move forwardin life. I looked at them not with compassion but with self-righteous disrespect, and a feeling of authority. Trying tounderstand what the homeless persons in today’s societyactually go through just to survive was something that justnever occurred to me. When the majority of people todayspeculate and wonder why these people supposedly chooseto be that way, the real reasons all too often getoverlooked, mostly due to the lack of actual knowledge ofthe homeless.
There are plenty of stereotypes that follow the homelessbut there’s no blanket explanation as to why there are thosewho still suffer on a daily basis. Most people have a certainway of viewing the homeless which includes drugs; alcohol;smoking; child abuse; criminal activity, and any number ofother categorizations that may or may not fit. When it comesto those groupings, we need to dissect each person’s lifeseparately and ask one simple question. Which came first,the chicken or the egg?
This book explains in magnificent detail the reasons forbecoming homeless and not being able to pull away fromthat lifestyle for each individual in this true story. It alsoshows how you may get so caught up in their life thatsometimes you might feel angry at the way homelesspersons were treated by others. On the other hand, you mayfind places within this story that will bring tears to your eyesor even laugh at some of the absolutely hilarious situationsthat arose.
I never envisioned in the wildest reaches of myimagination that I would ever end up in a situation that wouldleave me homeless. I always thought; me, one of the mostrespected construction equipment mechanics in the areawinding up on the streets and holding a sign? No way! It didhappen and now, looking back after the long journey hasended, God has provided me with the skills and knowledgeto tell others about it.
Although it is believed that homeless persons existprimarily in large cities and communities laced withpoverty, the Behind the Signs storyline took place on theoutskirts of a midsize town in the Pacific Northwest. Many ofthe episodes in this true story occurred just outside citylimits on private property owned by a large timbermanagement company.
BEHIND THE SIGNS A JOURNEY THROUGH HOMELESSNESS BY KIRK TONCRAYAvailable at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other fine retailers. Also available in electronic formats for Kindle, Nook, Sony, Apple and Mobi.