Tuesday, February 9, 2010

I looked the other way. Do you?

"Homeless, will work for food.  War vet, unable to work, please help."  Are we looking the other way?  Do we feel compassion, anger, or guilt?

"How am I suppose to help him when I can barely help myself?"

"Shooot.... her shoes look better than mine?"

I was shopping one holiday weekend in downtown San Diego and it was pouring rain.  Instead of being excited about the things I needed to purchase for family and friends, I could not help but notice the people we choose to look away from, ignore.  Maybe if I didn't look in their direction, they wouldn't ask.  I had never seen so many homeless people out - huddled underneath doorways, sleeping in trash bags and going about their day.  Most of us think of downtown as the hot nightlife, a time to get dressed up and be amongst friends.  Often we turn the other way when we walk past them, approached by someone begging for money.  I know, realistically, we can’t help them all.  I just believe we should show some compassion.   Easily, an outfit purchased for a night out can cost $50.  Easily, a night ends with a $100 tab.  Easily, we spend $5 to $20 on a box of pepperoni pizza or the greasy but so juicy California burrito.  Easily, we can spare a dollar to someone on the street, to eat, buy a beer or a pack of smokes.  How about a can of Fancy Feast?

I wanted to come back and find out how they got there.  It took 2 months…

I was watching The View about a family who had millions, decided to cut their wants in half to help others*.  It dawned on me, I am one of those people.  We think it but we do nothing about it.  Thinking is only half the battle.

How do we picture most of these people?  Decent shoes does not do it for us.  Decent clothes does not do it for us either.  Tattered clothes.  No shoes.  Unkempt hair.  A smell that will keep us a mile away.   Is that our definition of homeless?  Hell, even I smelled after walking around for two and a half hours.  Ask my sister, she’ll tell you I need deodorant, stay away from her clothes.  Now imagine not being able to shower for days, months and/or years.  A home lost, a job lost, and in a large city lost.  Homeless.  These people look like your everyday people with or without the shopping carts full of clothes, cans, and/or bottles. They are families with or without the signs for help.

I grabbed my camera, purchased some food and I was off.  It was so much harder than I thought. I walked away from the tourist scene, away from the luxurious hotels and restaurants and into pathways and crowds people often avoided.   They were sleeping in corners, doorways, laid across the sidewalks and on the grass of Petco Park.  I was actually scared.  Scared to approach them.  Scared of what others might think.  Scared I would be invading their privacy.  Scared because they might throw back the McDouble I hand over.  Funny how we hear something on the radio or on the news; they only want money to support their alcohol or drug habit, so they must not want food.  Baby steps, baby steps.  First step, look around and stop looking the other way.  

A gentleman I approached came to San Diego about a week ago from Colorado in hopes to get his job back.  A war vet, a former marine he said.  He said he hadn’t showered in 2 weeks and is hopeful that something good will come along.  Estella, a 53-year old beautiful woman, diagnosed with stenosis and fibromyalgia, came to San Diego in 2007, lost everything she had in a bitter divorce in 2003.  I sat there talking to her for awhile, mostly listening.  I gave her all I had left in my bag, told she had the choice to share it with the people around her or keep it for herself.  "Nah, I don't mean to be selfish but I'll keep all of it, I'll have it for dinner.  How'd ya know McDonald's is my favorite?" Estella was kind of enough to allow me 1 photograph.  I asked her to smile for me.  "Nah girl, I told you about my teeth." She was missing her front two.

Estella thanked me for the food and asked god to bless me.  But I thought, please god, bless her.

While some of us think this is the life they chose for themselves, I don’t believe it’s a life any of us would choose for ourselves.  Most of them just lost their ways.  Looking for work.  No family support.  Mental illness that brought them here.  Most of these people lack insight to what they have and do not have.  Hopeful that their life will change and hopeful God will help guide them.

I’m not saying we have to give everyone that walks by money but to show some compassion, understand that this is not the life they asked for, not to assume the worst if we have not walked a day in their shoes.

* More about The Power of Half

1 comment:

  1. 11:32 PM
    anita: hi baby. i read the blog. but its about homeless people not about relationships!!!!!

    me: hahaha

    anita: wtf

    me: i know


    me: but isnt it also about the scene, the truth and our fear?

    anita: wait Lanoche was like oh anita read my blog and she never sent me the link

    anita: can you send it to me?

    In other words, send me something worth reading... hahaha