Posted by: joshjasper | May 19, 2011

The Fringe

I was reminded in a meeting last night how little we really know of each other and how much we think we know based on incorrect assumptions.

I’ve been in Springfield the past few days meeting with individuals that have various roles within the social services field.  Last night one of my colleagues noted the increase of homeless men that they are serving at their local YMCA.  She was clearly frustrated with the lack of motivation she felt these men had to better their situations.  Her lack of empathy gnawed at my bones.  I’ve never met this woman, but yet she looked to me to reaffirm her anguish, as if I knew what she was going through…or better yet, as if she knew my background.

Her frustrations brought back vivid memories for me of 1994, living in my 1979 Chevy Conversion van in Cedar Rapids, and having a membership to the YMCA for the sole purpose of having access to a shower.  I’m sure that she assumed that I had never experienced such hardships due to my current status as the President/CEO of an organization, and that I would be coming from the same type of mindset she has concerning someone simply pulling themselves up by their bootstraps and moving forward.  She couldn’t have been further from the truth.

After checking into my room last night at the Crowne Plaza, I noticed that an Outback Steakhouse was within walking distance of the hotel. (Hands down favorite restaurant. I would put their honey mustard on my cereal)  There was a walking path from the hotel to the restaurant that wandered into a small cove of trees and bushes.

In the grass I came across a board that had a piece of carpet fastened to the top.  This clearly was used to sleep on.

As I sat in the air conditioned Outback, sipping on a beer while enjoying my fries dipped into honey mustard, I couldn’t help but think about the guy that sleeps 50 feet from the restaurant and the hotel under the trees.  What’s his story?  I wondered what got him to that point, and most importantly, I wondered about what he has yet to accomplish.



  1. As always, another fascinating and insightful blog entry. I want to hear more about your time in ’94 (maybe over a beer at the Outback next time I’m in Iowa). We’re all just a few bad turns/mishaps/accidents away from being that person on the piece of cardboard 50 feet outside the real world.

    “What’s his story?” That’s the sort of thing that motivates me about human nature (and why I like to write).

  2. Thanks, Mike! Your input is always greatly respected and appreciated. Definitely let me know when you are in town and we’ll swap stories. (a Bloomin’ Onion between the two of us!) You’re not kidding that we all a misstep or two away from a very different reality.

    I agree with you about the fascination of people’s stories. We are all very different people with such incredibly different experiences and perspectives.

  3. Hi Josh – Just read your article in His Magazine. I am just amazed at how many things I did not know about you growing up. I had no idea you were bullied so bad. I always thought our class of twelve at St. Joes got along so well. Farley was such a small town and you always seemed to have so many friends.

    This blog also amazed me. I can’t believe you had to live in your van. I am so surprised you had no one to turn to. Not even your parents. I am so sorry you feel you have been through so much. Thank goodness things seem to be better for you now.


  4. Hi Liz-
    Thanks for the comment. Unfortunately, I think we have all gone through some things in our childhood that we would like to forget! I hope all is well with you and your family.

  5. I typically don’t read your blogs Josh but a few have come to my attention, and now this one. It has been some time but if I remember correctly in 1994 you were a student at Kirkwood. Even if you didn’t have an apartment that year, as you previously did the year before, you were working, going to school, had plenty of friends to stay with, sleep at their apartments or shower. The only thing I remember your van..the Red Virign as you named it..being used for was road triping. Now, I realize that is in the past and that everyone has a past, but please don’t try and compare that to the truly homeless people that can’t find work, are struggling to support their families or truly are sleeping in the streets. You had wonderful parents less than an hour away that I’m sure who would have welcomed you back if you were that desperate. however, I just don’t remember that being the case.

    You mention that the person was surprised that as the president/CEO of Riverview you once were in that situation. When did Riverview become a business Josh? I have had the pleasure to work with the wonderful advocates from Riverview for almost 14 years. They work long hours and devote their time because of their care and love for those that need their services. They are the ones that take the 2am phone call to talk to a victim, respond to the hospital after a child has been assaulted, talk the family through a difficult situation. You gave yourself the title “President/CEO” and that’s all it is, a title. You take credit for things that these wonderful advocates deserve, yet don’t ask for. I’m sorry but it has gotten to the point that all these articles and blogs, which some are questionable about the truthfulness, are about you…and not about Riverview, not about the advocates and the families that need their services. I’m sure you will respond, but I won’t. I have said my peace.

  6. Hi Abby,
    Thanks for the comment. I think it is important to clarify a few points in your remarks. To begin, I did have a job, was a student, had friends, and a supportive family, but did in fact spend some time living in my van. Now with that said, I by no means was comparing my situation with that of someone that is “truly homeless” as you stated. I was just noting that it is important not to make assumptions of people that we do not know.

    Additionally, I’m assuming you are asking me about when Riverview Center became a business due to my title. If that is the case, it should be noted that over the past 10 years non profit agencies started transitioning the titles of their administrative employees to be synonymous with corporations. You will find that a number of non profit agencies in our community have done the same. The rationale behind this change is to help increase support from businesses and corporations.

    Lastly, the reason that some of the articles or blogs that you have seen are about me is because my blog is a blog about me. (joshjasper.wordpress vs. riverviewcenter.wordpress) It is a space in which I write about my experiences, thoughts, ramblings, etc.

  7. Josh
    If you want to distinguish between your blog (joshjasper.wordpress) and Riverview’s blog (riverviewcenter.wordpress) then why does the blog link on Riverview’s home page take you to this blog? I click on that to read about Riverview….not you.

  8. @ Abby:
    Your assumptions that he must’ve had a great support system are some of the more ignorant things I have read in awhile. So, parents automatically help out when times are rough? Having friends automatically means you have a place on their couch, in their shower?

    As a survivor and a now volunteer, I can assure you that Josh, too works long hours and devotes so much his time because of his care and love for those in need. Although it’s ridiculous to even mention, he HAS taken 2:00 AM phone calls from the hotline. Especially male survivors who request to speak to a male – Josh is the one who gets called. Your assumptions and ignorance are palpable. Because you are someone who is professionally affiliated with riverview, I am shocked you would make such an unprofessional move as to attempt to slander its director. This is childish. Especially the “I’m sure you’ll respond, but I won’t. I’ve said my peace.” Oh that’s convenient. Why don’t you just cover your ears and say “nah, nah, nah” to avoid having to deal with any response your hostile words might provoke? You can’t have it both ways – if you’re an adult. You obviously have no clue who he is and what he does.

    I don’t understand this hostility. Josh wouldn’t be the first person in the world to link his personal blog to the non-profit he directs, a blog which talks about his reflections, views, as they pertain to his work at riverview center. Really? You didn’t think you were going to read about Josh at all on a site called Oh, that makes sense.

  9. Appalled
    I commend you for being a survivor and giving back to an organization that may have helped you through a difficult time. Please don’t take this as an attack, just trying to help clarify a few things you may not be aware of.
    I too, like Liz, Abby and Doug grew up in Farley with Josh. They are not making ignornat, childish or hostile comments. They are speaking from their experiences, information you may not know because you did not grow up with him in Farley.
    If you have followed the blogs you will have seen that there have always been hostile comments made towards Josh, some very rude and uncalled for, and some by people who will just say anything to be heard. But now, the people who knew him are speaking out because of some recent articles and information that he has put out there that are just not true. I am talking about the article in Him Magazine that Josh talks about being bullied, not having any friends, wishing a teacher would have stepped in and having to walk different routes home from school.
    I went to St. Joes with Josh, saw him being mean to kids who did not provoke him and was also on the receiving end of Josh being a bully. He was always one of the bigger kids in the class and always had friends. How do the people who were his friends at the time feel about this, feel about him saying this? The teachers we had cared for us and did step in when they saw things like this. St. Joes was so small, everyone knew everyone, parents knew parents. Farley was a wonderful community, not like growing up on the south side of Chicago as he makes it seem. Josh’s parents are wonderful and would have helped him if he was truly homeless, as mentioned in this blog. He did haveseveral friends he could have stayed with when he was 19–that is different than a homeless family sleeping in their car–but I too don’t remember this being the case.
    My point to all this is whatever his intentions are for Riverview I hope are admirable, but some of the information that he has been saying is not true. The people who he grew up with, their families and now their friends, know this…and more importantly do too.

  10. Abby/Not Hostile-

    FYI-when you post a comment on a blog it sends the blogger an email noting that a comment has been sent that includes the IP address in which the email came from. (IP addresses are assigned to each internet user by your respective internet service provider) With that said, why did you change your screen name from Abby to Not Hostile, especially when you noted in your first comment that you weren’t going to respond?
    You, your friend Liz, and her brother Doug have made it clear that you don’t believe the accuracy of the content of my recent blog entries. I get it. I’m not really sure what else to say about that other than what I wrote was true. The article I wrote about bullying was about a time in my life when I was bullied, which was not my entire childhood. The same goes for when I wrote about living in my van for a short period of time. I didn’t say that I lived in my van for a year, simply that there was a time in which I was between homes. I did have a wonderfully supportive family and grew up in a great town. I have never stated otherwise.

  11. 1. knowing the small town mentality i can’t help but to be slightly rude by saying i find the comments posted here just a bit funny. I could go on for pages here but i’m far to busy enjoying my life.

    2. knowing the name, address, family members names, etc of every resident in a small town does not constitute truly knowing someone.

    3. As a youngster I was a major bully. I have always had a gift for reading people, in person, over the phone, even through written text. I used this skill as a youth to help me be the best of the best when it came to being a bully. I loved bringing my “victims” to tears with words or my fists. I had a whatever it takes to break them attitude.

    4. back then I practiced several different methods of bullying, and witnessed even more methods from others. whatever method the end result the bully achieved is all the same. that is to bring shame and pain, to intimidate into submission, to bring harm, to dominate etc

    5. the passive aggressive method of bullying used hear by the previous posters is ridiculous to say the least.

    I’m not trying to stir the pot, rather provoke understanding or at the very least a one on one discussion to clear confusion that seams to riddle the comments here. As I mentioned, as a youth I was a major bully and as i grew older this fact bothered me to the point i had to do something about it. So as an adult I started calling, emailing, or talking to in person some (not all) of the people I felt I had wronged. I’m happy to report my apologies where usually met with understanding and new or closer friendships.

    btw: I too am originally from Farley, Ia and attended St. Joes and a few months ago I reached out to a fellow St. Joes student that I bullied to apologies. I bullied this guy like it was my full time job! Not one time after school but every chance I got for a few years both verbally and physically. His name is Josh Jasper.

  12. Hey Josh,

    Maybe as dtlabowski suggests, we should sit down and have a discussion about all of this. I am willing and so are some of your other classmates. I wasn’t accusing you of being dishonest, I just thought you might of stretched the truth a little in the article. You were always the class clown but often this was at the expense of others. I admit at times I was guilty of laughing at your jokes. I should have stood up for those that were picked on. Have you reached out to anyone in our class that you put down? I know of one you have not and they have terrible memories of being bullied.

    The past is the past but if you are going to bring up being picked on, please don’t forget at times you were guilty of picking on others.
    I am anxious to see if you post this.


  13. Liz,

    I would like to meet with you to discuss this further. I would also be more than happy to meet with any other person on an individual basis as well.

    I have certainly not forgotten the times in which I picked on others when I was younger. In fact, I have written about my bullying behavior in articles in the past. I also share those experiences in presentations I give about bullying behaviors.

    Please email ( or call me at your convenience to set up a time in which we can get together to discuss your thoughts. I look forward to getting together soon.

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