I'm sitting here sick in the stomach for the fourth time this year because, once again, I am watching a treasured friend lose her home.
Once again, I'm stunned that people that old are homeless.
My friend is 72. Her husband is 75. I know them for eight years. In all that time, I have never seen them spend money for anything except necessities. Not one single so-called luxury, unless you call food a luxury.
But they do have a lovely home. At least they do until next Saturday when the bank is having an auction on the steps of their waterfront property.
They built it as their retirement home when they moved to Florida from Ohio. It wasn't quite move in ready when Hurricane Charley blew away some of the house. They had to spend more than they wanted to rebuild because building codes changed after the hurricane and satisfying those codes was costly.
Both my friend and her husband continued to work part-time, working as many hours as they can get. I knew they had to work because neither one has a pension, just social security.
When the economy tanked, their jobs were cut. That's when they had to put their home up for sale.
But they found out first hand what it means when a home is "underwater." They owe much more on the home than it is worth. They wiped out their savings, trying to hang on until they finally had to sign the home over to the bank.
They will now be renting a small home and trying to find more work.
I told you this is the fourth time this year I have watched older friends end up with nothing not even a home.
These are not irresponsible people or those who lived high off the hog, as the saying goes. They worked hard all their lives and never thought they would be homeless.
We call people like that "victims of the economy." It's a phrase that lacks punch. The punch comes when it happens to you or to those you care about.
All around me I see people struggling to buy food and to pay for their medical expenses. They are thrifty and resourceful and they're hanging on. But they have to make every penny count. With food prices up 40 percent and medical costs soaring, hanging on is getting harder for many people.
I got those statistics from one of my favorite newspapers, The Wall Street Journal. I like so much about that paper, especially the personal, health and off duty sections. But I sure can't relate to some of the stories.
Take today for instance. The cover story is about the new monochromatic trend in fashion.
Here I am, with a hole in my heart because of my hurting friends and I pick up that newspaper to read about a woman's jacket
costing $4,065 and a blouse that sells for $1,150.
The next page had a story about gifts from the sea – seashells used to make fashion accessories. Hey, our shell club makes home and fashion accessories from seashells so I thought I could relate to that article.
But then I saw "gifts from the sea" meant sandals topped with seashells for $1,445 and a shell clutch purse for $888. The large shark necklace was $960.
What came to mind as I read those stories was the old song:" Two Different Worlds, I live in."
There are two different worlds out there. One is populated by people who pinch pennies and worry about whether they can afford an $8 pack of chicken.
The other world is made up of people who can drop $33,000 for an evening bag. I truly don't know anyone like that. But if The Wall Street Journal can dedicate page after page of those high price fashions, it must be because someone is buying them.
As I ponder those high priced items, I think of the 79-year-old woman I met kayaking. When she told me she "lived in a shack," I laughed. I thought she was joking.
Apparently not. A little later she pointed out the shack. It's actually a small shed on her friend's property. She's grateful to have it, she said, or else she would be homeless.
We do live in two different worlds, don't we?
While that was always the case, I believe it's worse now.
Now it's hitting the solid middle class – people who worked hard all their lives only to fall upon desperate times late in life.
Some can afford clothes that cost more than the average mortgage.
Others can't afford a place to live.
Two different worlds, for sure.
I keep waiting for someone to do something about those struggling people, needy folks who are invisible to the rest of us.
I keep waiting and praying because it's all I can do.
Somewhere, somehow, someone has to emerge with programs and ideas that will actually help the hurting, older folks.
Meanwhile, my insides hurt at the immense differences between two different worlds.