DeKalb: Life’s struggles played out on Stone Mountain's Main Street

I cried because I had no shoes until I met the man who had no feet.

— Anonymous

Scenes from Stone Mountain Village:

I was sitting in an antique store waiting for my wife to examine everything in the store. The coffee was good. It was freezing outside.

A man walking in the front door caught my attention. He needed a haircut and shave. His clothing was raggedy. He was very thin and needed teeth. He had an old soft drink bottle in his hand. He approached the front desk. Owner Nan Nash greeted him by name.

“My truck ran out of gas,” he said.

“I can only pay $4. These don’t sell well now,” Nan said, taking the bottle.

“That’s OK. At least, I can get some gas.”

She handed him $4.

I went to the counter and asked about the man.

“He picks up cans and bottles, and anything else he can sell. I can only get $5 for this.”

The increasing disparity between ultra-rich and ultra-poor strikes me as ominous for this country.

I went to my car and got my billfold. I had $26. I took the $20 and went back inside.

“How often does he come in?” I said.

Nan said, “Every couple days.”

“Give this to the guy when he comes back in,” I said.

I thought of the Great Depression when I was young. I thought of baseball players making millions for hitting a baseball or throwing a football. Something is sorrowfully lop-sided here.

* * *

They were having lunch when I arrived. I guessed 35 people above 18 years old, with differing degrees of brain-damage. The menu was turkey chili. I was invited to lunch. It was delicious.

I was introduced to several of them as I spoke with Virginia Vaughan, resource coordinator. I was told that an ex-sailor made good barbecue. Standing close by, he corrected her, “I make excellent barbecue.”

I said I’d come to his house for barbecue. He said his momma wouldn’t like that.

I said I’d bring a whole deer for him to barbecue.

He grinned broadly and said, “Forget momma, I’ll let you have my sister’s room.”

I told him I had been in the Navy, too. He saluted and said, “Anchors aweigh.” He had been coming there regularly for five years and showed a remarkable sense of humor.

Side By Side Brain Injury Clubhouse was founded by Cindi Johnson 10 years ago in Decatur. Three years ago she moved to Stone Mountain Village. They mentor people with brain damage so they can rejoin their family, with some being prepared to live independently. That’s the staff’s goal. I could feel their dedication.

Through fundraisers, donations and grants the mortgage has been paid in full. But, they do need the parking lot replaced to make it safe for the members’ access and egress. I know a few people who have wads of money lying around gathering dust. Dust it off. They need their parking lot replaced.

Bill York lives in Stone Mountain. Reach him at