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The Pathos of Doing the Best I Can

Summary:
Edin and Nelson's Doing the Best I Can is packed with poignant stories, but here's the one that almost made me cry....Ritchie Weber knows what it is like to hit rock bottom.  Just two years ago he was spending nights huddled in a slide in Tacony Park on Torresdale Avenue... Heroin and child support consumed nearly all of his earnings - he had to scrounge dumpsters for food... but no matter how bad it got, he never missed a day of work.  And he didn't let a week go by without seeing his nine-year-old boy.How Ritchie turned his life around, at least for the time being:"It was a time in my life when drugs were so important to me that that is all I concerned myself about..."  But even then Ritchie kept

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Edin and Nelson's Doing the Best I Can is packed with poignant stories, but here's the one that almost made me cry.
...Ritchie Weber knows what it is like to hit rock bottom.  Just two years ago he was spending nights huddled in a slide in Tacony Park on Torresdale Avenue... Heroin and child support consumed nearly all of his earnings - he had to scrounge dumpsters for food... but no matter how bad it got, he never missed a day of work.  And he didn't let a week go by without seeing his nine-year-old boy.
How Ritchie turned his life around, at least for the time being:
"It was a time in my life when drugs were so important to me that that is all I concerned myself about..."  But even then Ritchie kept stopping by to see his son.  "I had long hair and was unbathed for days at a time, and I remember crying to my son, telling him how I was sorry.  And I remember my son hugging me, saying it was OK, as long as I just came to see him.  That Christmas I didn't have anything for him.  He said me just being there was all the present he needed."

The turning point finally came when a friend tried to convince Ritchie that to conquer his addiction he needed a change of scenery; the friend had a contact in Florida who had agreed to set Ritchie up with a job and an apartment.  Initially, Ritchie thought he should grasp at this lifeline, but the thought of leaving his young son instilled a strong conviction he couldn't simply flee from his problems. "It was the thought of never seeing him again that ripped through me... I knew I had to break down and face everything that I caused in order to keep my son in my life."  Accordingly, Ritchie started attending AA and NA meetings, determined to claim his sobriety.  Being homeless and sober was the hardest thing he had done.

Of course, if I heard the same story from the point of view of Ritchie's son - or the boy's mom - I'd probably be feeling outrage rather than sorrow...


Bryan Caplan
Bryan Caplan is Professor of Economics at George Mason University and Senior Scholar at the Mercatus Center. He has published in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the American Economic Review, the Economic Journal, the Journal of Law and Economics, and Intelligence, and has appeared on 20/20, FoxNews, and C-SPAN. Bryan Caplan blogs on EconLog.

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