Earl

Over the past decade or so working in New Jersey politics, I have found myself unemployed a couple times. Honestly, as a single guy in my 30s, it’s not the worst thing in the world to have some free time away from the world of twitter and “Up and Down” lists. I don’t need much to live – a room, partial access to a bathroom (public restrooms work), some basic food, a gym, a church, and a beach.

All of those things have been easy to find in Indialantic, Florida, a small beach town over an hour south of Orlando.

Traveling around in a 1985 Volkswagen Vanagon has led me to some interesting places. I spend a decent amount of times in parks and under bridges. There’s just something amazing about being under a busy bridge, hanging by the water that gets me stoked.

Now, I have never been shy and genuinely enjoy chatting with people from all walks of life. My mom often recalls a story about an elementary school Frank Luna going up to a homeless man in New York City and giving him some money. Homelessness is something that has always bothered me – even when I was a kid.

There are some people in society that the system has failed and it’s disheartening, for sure. It’s a complicated problem that just doesn’t seem to get the attention it deserves.

That brings me to Earl. I was hanging in a park in Melbourne not too long ago and I met Earl. He’s a homeless man with a stellar beard, who I immediately hit it off with. We chatted about life and happiness and he gave me some pointers on places to see (and sleep) in the area. He told me if I was out of a certain park before 6:00AM, the local cops wouldn’t bother me. There’s also a porta-potty there. Earl also told me that if any locals bothered me, I just had to let them know I was a friend of his. We parted ways and I figured I would probably never see him again. I was wrong.

A few days later, I was running and I saw Earl on his bicycle. We got to chatting again and he told me he was heading south because he heard there was work there for him there. He was legit pumped about it.

I was amazed at how this man, with everything he owned in a milk crate on his bicycle, had such a positive outlook on life. He wasn’t upset or down about his current situation, he had hope that if he put some effort in, he would find a better life by heading south. And, that’s the lesson I got from him: Sometimes you just have to smile, put some work in, and head south. The coolest part about this picture? It’s just two handsome, unemployed, bearded guys stoked about life.

Now, for the politics. Leaders in both parties need to take on the issue of homelessness with some more gusto. Sure, there are some decent programs out there, but far too many people are one economic catastrophe away from ending up on the streets.

This is an area that we can all make a difference in – The President, Governors, State Legislators, Local Officials, and unemployed former political hacks. Consider checking out some local organizations that are doing great work to help those less fortunate. Introduce yourself to someone on the streets. Offer to buy them lunch – and share a meal with them. It might not solve the problem for everyone forever, but it will solve the problem for that person in that moment. Keep on livin’.

Frank Luna worked in New Jersey politics for over ten years. He is a former College Republican State Chairman who went on to work for Senator Nick Asselta, the Ocean County GOP, Governor Chris Christie, Congressman Jon Runyan, Senator Chris Brown, and Congressman Tom MacArthur. You can follow his journey on Instagram and Twitter: @frankaluna

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