Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Trip Home

I helped carry a homeless woman's bags onto the bus this evening. I'm not saying this in hopes of being canonized or being made an Eagle Scout. Quite the contrary, I didn't feel good after doing this. I was annoyed I had to. My hand felt dirty afterwards. I felt I had to do it because that's what you do as a good citizen, and I didn't have an excuse; my white leather purse and canvas bag from the Oakville Grocery in the Napa Valley fit on my shoulder, making my hands free. I sat down to read a chapter in my book called "The Paradox of Individuality" in front of a smelly homeless man. I felt annoyed again.


My bus route goes by the city shelter. And, if I stay at work a bit late or stop somewhere before getting to the bus stop, I'm right on schedule with the time you have to go to the shelter, apparently. I see the woman whose bags I carried often.


The woman I helped started a "conversation" with a woman in the front, probably against the other woman's wishes. She said out loud to whomever would listen, "There's so much hate in the world. So much anger. You'll all get old one day and see what it's like to be an old lady."


My mind immediately went to my retirement savings, of course, and how I really should save more. I also thought "But for the grace of God..." in the words of Oprah (other people say it, but for some reason, I think of that as a classic Oprah phrase). I feel lucky to have been blessed with what I have. I also feel proud of my work. But, there is always that lurking fear: what if I lost everything?


Everything isn't just everything monetary. I see these people who live on the streets and wonder where their families are. Did they finally have enough of the drug use and exercise tough love? Did they see their family member descend into mental illness and were helpless to stop it? Or, are these people truly without anyone? I think everyone has at least had a taste of this. It's why confronting homelessness and the homeless is so difficult for us. It makes us confront our own powerlessness and our own fears of helplessness.


When I take the Metro instead of the D6, I see another homeless man. He hangs around 2nd and Massachusetts Ave. He actually often attends church with me too (I think the doughnuts are a big draw...). What strikes me about him is his good attitude. I'm sure he probably has a mental problem which makes him this way, but seriously, I could do with a little of that. I think he sees it as his job in the morning to tell everyone to have a good day. He doesn't panhandle. He sits with his stuff and says things like "It's Friday! Think positive!" Or "Sunny day today! Have a good day!" For just a minute, I do think a little more positive.

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