The real shame of American culture

August 17, 2014
Stacey Warde

Stacey Warde


A woman at the thrift shop today asked me if I was homeless.

I had just pulled a pair of Levi jeans off the rack, and a book on writing I’d discovered off the shelf and placed them before her.

“Do you take credit or debit cards?” I asked.

“No, I’m sorry,” she said, “We only take cash. We’ve just had too many problems with cards. That’ll be four dollars.”

I didn’t have any cash on me. I thought my card would do the trick.

Then, she asked: “Are you homeless?”

“Um, no,” I replied. I wore a uniform T-shirt with the company logo of the landscape outfit I work for and sported a pair of pruners in a holster on my belt. I’m a laborer but I’m not homeless, I said.

We just made a quick stop between jobs so that I could find a cheap pair of work pants.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” she responded. “I thought you might be homeless. We sometimes can give items free to customers who are homeless.”

This is a church-run outfit in Los Osos, one that provides income for the church and opportunities to serve the poor.

“Well, I’m not homeless,” I said, “but thanks for asking.”

“I’d be offended if someone had asked me if I was homeless,” she said apologetically.

“Really?” I said quickly, incredulous. “Why be offended? Especially in this economy. No, there’s no need to feel ashamed, not for being homeless” I added, the fires burning, “the people who need to feel ashamed are the Wall Street bankers who’ve robbed this country blind for the last ten years.”

She wouldn’t look at me, refused to engage further in my fulmination against the real shame of American culture: it isn’t homelessness but greed. That’s why this country is so fucked up.

That’s why a church woman intending to do well, to serve the poor, would feel offended if someone had asked her if she were homeless.

The more homelessness and child poverty, the more shame to those who hoard their wealth. The real crux of shame in American culture is greed, not poverty.

All that comes to mind, when I think of it, are the French Revolution and peasants who tear down the ramparts and bring to ruin the elite, the effete aristocracy, who would let the poor eat cake rather than deign to show compassion; and the biblical lament, “Woe to you who hoard your riches and refuse to hear the cry of the poor!”

Stacey Warde is a long time Cayucos resident and the publisher of The Rogue Voice which is now available online.

Dirk Anderson

Thank you Stacey Warde,

I have been Homeless for more years than I can count, it is nothing I wear on my sleeve. I am sick of this label “Homeless” what am I -less of?

I will put my accomplishments up against a ton of people. I read more Biblical Greek, Sanskrit, Avestan, etc than any these soup kitchen plate ploppers, who show up so they can look down there long noses, in comparison to the likes of that they fancy themselves miraculous.

I don’t know about this specific Church, but given the wealth of some of these Institutions, are you kidding me?

Safe to say I have studied some of the toughest of the tough, in literal poverty and exile in my own Country. There are plenty of drunks, addicts, convicts, to go around for all these Churches.


It was probably the book on writing that gave her the wrong idea. ;-)


Hi Stacey,

I think the poor woman was just embarrassed and didn’t know how to respond to your thought (which is an accurate one, by the way).

I know the store you are talking about–I’ve found some great things there–and find that it’s mostly staffed by seniors. I also bet she agreed with what you said, but again, just didn’t know what to do with this comment.

This store is run by a pretty progressive Christian denomination.


As a person who does volunteer work trying to help the needy, which most are so kind and careful for in their time of need, it does one person like this to turn the table, create a misread or misspoken statement and twist it for his cause. Some of our volunteers are not use to working with the public in this manner. They do this with kindness in their heart, trying to do good, and want to help anyone they can.

Shame on you STACEY WARDE for turning a well intended good deed into your rant for the day!