Steve Lopez spoke at Seattle’s Town Hall on Sunday, May 31 – a good talk from a master storyteller with an inspiring commitment to social justice. Here are excerpts from the author’s remarks in an older interview by Jay Wertz, posted at GreatHistory.com:
Skid rows exist in the nation in part because of the stigma associated with mental illness, and [The Soloist] helps address our public policy failures. We know how to help those who were struck down through no fault of their own. We know how to help military veterans who come home shattered spiritually and mentally. But we don’t have enough of the programs, namely permanent supportive housing, that can help reclaim and rebuild lives. Those are our sons and daughters out there, our brothers and sisters, and we wouldn’t leave them camped out in a human corral if they had ovarian cancer or Parkinson’s. The story asks the public a question: why is it okay to shove people with a terrifying and debilitating mental illness into a human landfill?
They’re a prophetic presence, a good friend of mine likes to say, reminding us of our obligations as citizens of the world. Meeting Mr. Ayers was a gift in my life. I’ve learned compassion, patience and hope. I’ve learned to look past stereotypes and generalizations, and I’ve been inspired by the way in which, for all his challenges, Mr. Ayers has something many of us do not – he knows the meaning of life. He has found purpose and passion, and he has been faithful to his love through the darkest and most difficult hours of his life.
My review of The Soloist (book and movie) is at Crosscut.
Stories about spending personal time over coffee one hour a week with an individual who shares our public spaces but who is socially isolated by mental illness are on the Getting Started page, above.