It was a cold night Sunday, with the temperatures dipping to 40-degrees. A slight wind swirled it's way through the maze of downtown Nashville buildings, making it feel more like 30. As I walked up Broadway from the river I came upon a woman seated on the ground, her husband parked in a wheelchair to her left. He sat quietly, a blanket in his lap, struggling to extend his hand in an attempt to sell newspapers to passing pedestrians.
Grinning, he told me his name, "John Ross, but everyone calls me Johnny Pops. I’m 68." I laughed and told him I didn't believe him. He whipped out his driver’s license as proof of his 1947 birth. I smiled as his wife began to tell the story of how they became homeless.
“We were living in a motel on Dickerson Road. I worked as a cleaning lady for the property in exchange for a room, but they fired me because they said I was too old to work for them.” she said, looking down at the sidewalk. We discussed the illegality of age discrimination in the workplace, but she was far more eager to get on with her life than to hold a grudge.
I asked where they were currently living. “We live on the bench of the bus stop down the street.” said Johnny Pops. When I asked which one (because I wanted to bring them a couple of sleeping bags to supplement their lightweight blankets) he got a huge grin on his face and said, laughingly "The one with the white columns, white picket fence and big front porch!” I love it when people have a sense of humor, despite their life's circumstances.
This husband and wife team aren't at the bottom to stay. They told me they've been saving their money with a goal in mind. “We have an opportunity to live on a farm in Indiana and we're saving everything we make for that move.” Mrs. Ross said hopefully.
The late Robin Williams once stated, “The worst thing in life is not to end up all alone. The worst thing in life is to end up with people who make you feel alone.” I think Johnny “Pops” Ross understands that greater things are yet to come and he has Mrs. Ross by his side to remind him that he's never alone. Together, no matter where they live, they have each other.