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Blessing, Begging and Grace
Will Work for Food or $

A Memoir From the Roadside
by Bruce Moody

Book Review by Joel Fallon

Standard text version

 

 

I attended a poetry reading in Crockett a few weeks ago and heard Bruce Moody read an essay. He mentioned that the Arizona Author's Association had awarded his new book, Will Work for Food or $, A Memoir From the Roadside, the 2004 first prize for Best Non-Fiction. I bought a copy of his book and was immediately hooked by this compelling page-turner. It demanded every spare minute for the next two days. And I have thought about it every day since then.


Fired

Bruce got canned and was being crushed by expenses - rent, utilities, insurance, automobile, food. Unable to live on a minimum wage, he had to stay alive somehow until he could find a job that paid enough. How does he face his friends with this new reality? How does he deal with his pride? What advice does he have for other folks down on their luck? What would I do? What would you do? This compelling survival story is a mix of Zen-like self-realization, practicality, mysticism and humility.


Rules For Survival


Bruce meets a man in the same sort of jobless predicament and gets sound advice - rules of conduct dealing with humility and honest work ethics. Bruce bites the bullet, embraces his new lifestyle and stands by the side of a road with a hand-lettered sign: "Will work for Food or $."


He is shielded and strengthened by the rules; they prove to be effective. One of the most curiously powerful rules is blessing those who provide food or money and also blessing those who don't: "Bless you old lady with the pink hair, bless you Hostess Cupcake truck, bless you flivver, bless you glass truck..." The blessing is a wonderful mantra.


Is he begging? Not really. He offers himself to those who need work done - mundane jobs, hard jobs, yard work, dirty jobs, cleaning out gutters. "Hey, ya wanna move a grand piano?" "Sure, when?" Bruce refuses jobs that involve illegal activity but accepts all other jobs. Not everybody needs work and not everybody gives him food or money, but all receive his blessing.


This act of giving and receiving food and money, and giving and receiving a blessing, transforms and enriches both giver and receiver. It's like giving alms to a monk who rattles his wooden bowl. The monk benefits and the contributor improves his karma. The blessing mantra imparts a sustaining grace to those bestowing and receiving.


A Different View


Before reading Bruce Moody's book I used to think, "Why don't these bums get a job?" or "These junkies will spend anything I give 'em for drugs or wine." Moody's book pokes a window through a previously solid wall in my mind. Now I can't automatically characterize these folks as "bums" or "junkies." Now they have faces, real faces, faces like Moody's, like yours and like mine.


Maybe, like Moody, these folks are blessing me. My God, don't I have a job or some spare change for somebody who may be blessing me? If not, surely for their sake and my own, I can bless them right back. Read and share this book. More lives may be touched than you can imagine.

 

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