Post details: Blog Your Blessings Sundays: All I Want is a Room Somewhere...

04/15/07

Permalink 07:00:00 am, by Email , 1759 words   English (CA)
Categories: Blog Your Blessings Sundays

Blog Your Blessings Sundays: All I Want is a Room Somewhere...

Blog yer Blessings

All I want is a room somewhere, Far away from the cold night air.

I went grocery shopping on my lunch break at work on Wednesday... there's a large "upscale" grocery store not too far from the office and Sue asked me, despite the extra expense, to pick some things up for home... and in front of me, walking along Wellington Street were two women. Both were dressed rather nicely and warmly (it's been unseasonably cold in Toronto right now)... it was obvious by their lack of hurry and their conversation (which was clearly audible) that they had come from a lunch date with one of the women's husbands and were heading back to their car... probably to head home.

Unfortunately, my clothing is not-so-nice... but that's as much a factor of time constraints and personal taste (where to shop) as it is not having enough money to buy a new jacket, so since I was not dressed for the weather like them and rather cold, I breezed past them in order to shorten my trip. This is a fairly easy trick on the wide sidewalks downtown and didn't ruffle their feathers.

At the corner of Wellington and Yonge sat a young woman bundled up in ragged clothes and a sleeping bag. She was obviously homeless... or at least, not doing too well... she was dirty from the city's soot and smog and was shivering by a lamp standard with an old paper coffee cup in front of her with a couple of coins in it... she was hoping for spare change from passers by.

I reached into my pocket and dropped about $2.50 into her cup... not much, but it's what I can afford right now... I don't know if she thanked me or even noticed... really, that wasn't important... she wasn't openly soliciting for spare change save the cup with a few dimes in it and seemed far more concerned with staying warm than the activities or inactivities of passers by.

Once across the busy street, the two women were now on my heels after being able to catch up with me at the traffic light, they started in with what could only be described as a "stage conversation" for my benefit after they saw me toss my money into the cup...

"You know that she's strung out on something." one said.
"Giving them money only encourages them." said the other.

What neither of these two women could know is that the man in front of them who so foolishly parted with his coins was once almost in her position...

My mother and father had been married for many, many years... and I was, to say the least, a "problem child"... "troubled teen" perhaps would be better.

Either way, when my father suddenly passed away when I was seventeen, after some rough few months where my mother was in serious doubts about her future (which wasn't really too shaky as our father had provided well for us... he was an insurance executive after all,) I was given "the boot".

"I've done kids." were the last words I heard before heading out with the clothes on my back and really, little else.

I managed to "couch surf" with a friend for a few days... but ended up not being terribly welcome with his parents... and although it was foolish, I ended up lying when I knew my presence was becoming unwanted and saying I had a place to go... when I didn't... and yes, spent some time sleeping in parks.

Weirdly enough, I had too much pride to admit I needed a home and help from people and preferred self-imposed homelessness to being a burden.

I never panhandled during that time... I tried to earn what food I found by doing "odd jobs" or by offering to do help where I could in exchange for food... mow lawns, help move furniture, even carrying groceries for people.

Luckily, my "homelessness" didn't last too long (just a few weeks in the Summer,) and soon I was living with one of my sisters in her apartment...

After "settling in" with the sister, I managed to find my way back into school, a decent job, and eventually even start a career.

...but I will never forget how close I came...

...nor how much a small amount of money (even $2.50) would have meant to me during some of the colder and leaner days...

I won't lie to you... there ARE homeless folks who HAVE chosen that path for various reasons ranging from not wanting to live by certain rules to "habits" and "addictions" that led them there. There are some who didn't choose that path, but due to usually mental illness, there they are.

...more importantly, I found out that although a minority, there were a good number like me... roof over their head and food in their belly one day and through a twist of fate or something else, they are on the streets the next day.

I don't know what this girl's story was... I had to rush to accomplish my tasks and get back to my office and couldn't chat even had she wanted to... but I know that a lousy $2.50 is enough for a hot coffee and a small snack inside a nice, warm donut shop... and a respite from the lamp standard for a few brief minutes until the staff or management would kick her back out onto the street.

All those years ago, when I was in the park, I was dirty... cold... tired. I heard people comment when I was forced to be somewhat near them (I tried to avoid people until I could get to the public washroom and clean up a little)... and the words stung. "Get a job" was something I heard a couple of times... even though I hadn't elicited any "conversation". The folks who said it felt I was "benefiting" from their helpful advice, I 'spose... though both times, the words were not said as much spitted out with venom.

Get a job... with no bus fare, no clean clothes, dirty hair and body, empty stomach, little or no sleep, damp from dew... yeah, perfect conditions to apply for any position.

Oh, and how to contact me if they had an opening? Please find me in between Allens Gardens and Serena Gundy Park... on a hill, behind a few large birch trees that affords me some weak form of privacy and security when I'm sleeping. Oddly enough, being the 1980's, I didn't have a cell phone nor Wi-Fi internet access...

Granted, how many homeless folks have you seen nowadays with a laptop and flip-phone?

These two women I started talking about have the blessing which I'm about to mention... and don't realise it... I guarantee it. The young lady doesn't have my blessing... yet... I hope she finds it some day soon and I'm certain that, like me, she most likely won't take it for granted.

My blessing is the roof over my head and food in the fridge. I'm thankful to not be truly hungry... and to know that tonight, there's a warm home, warm family, warm pets... and a comfortable, if small place to lay my head.

I won't lie... I wasn't handed these things... I worked for them. I earned them... but if not for a bed-couch in an apartment with my sister, would I be where I am today?

I don't think those around me know how much these blessings of warmth and comfort mean to me... I was fortunate, I only stared into the eyes of the beast for a few scant moments... many don't have siblings or friends or anyone to rescue them and are stuck with their lot until someone gives them one ounce of stability to work from.

Maybe I was wrong... maybe my coins would be used for booze or drugs... maybe I'm encouraging to poor girl to stay in the street...

...or maybe, with that quarter change after her coffee and donut, she'll make a call to someone to help her out...

...or maybe she won't make a call, but will have a little food and warmth for a short time...

I'd like to think it will be one of the two latter choices... but who knows.

One thing though, after my own experiences and working since then when possible helping others in similar situations, (of course I've volunteered at homeless shelters and food banks,) it's the best thing I could do on that spot at that time to share my blessings.

One wonders what "blessing" the two women coming from their lunch shared that Wednesday and with whom? My only thought about them was, You have no idea... and honestly, I hope you never have to find out first hand.

...another thought occurred about the women too... I wonder if either of them have daughters... because that girl was someone's baby once... and is most likely still someone's daughter...

...and I don't know if I could stand knowing that one of my kids was in that position... but it they were, I hope someone would drop in that $2.50 for them.

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For the record, my nasty story happened over twenty-years ago now... and I managed to finish college and soon I'll be announcing some goodly news about my current career... and my mom and I mended fences long ago... but that's a story for another time...

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Comments:

Comment from: Kim Jamieson [Visitor]
I'm so glad that things worked out for you, and we were able to share in the 'wisdoms' that you offer us.

I know the comtemplation of 'what if I was out and alone', as a time during my teens had me wondering if leaving could be worse than walking into a house where I was unwanted, belittled, and sneered at for anything and everything. I stayed - by that time I had no self-esteem or sense or worth anyway - and I discovered that yes, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. I'm now the one that everyone turns to in a crisis, the one that has the emotional and psychological strength to do whatever needs to be done...

But a few years ago on a trip downtown to go shopping (with another couple we knew) my hubby and I saw a man sitting inside a doorway, to keep out of the wind. He had a blanket wrapped around his legs, a bag of items tucked next to him, and he wasn't bothering anybody...on our way from the ATM, my hubby stopped and handed the man a $10.00 bill. He looked surprised, then thankful, and my hubby told him to take care and we went on our way. Our friends started with the 'He'll just use it to buy booze' speech, and my hubby said what the man used it for was his business, and they didn't know that so they shouldn't say it.
Shortly afterward we stopped in to a Burger King to get some lunch, and as we were sitting we saw the man - blanket now tucked into his bag - with the $10.00 in his hand, approaching the counter to order some food. And me, the one my family describes as 'the ice princess', still gets tears in my eyes remembering it.

Thanks for sharing your story Matthew.
PermalinkPermalink 04/15/07 @ 09:12
Comment from: Carmon [Visitor] · http://black-horse-design.blogspot.com
Really, really good and thoughtful post, especially as we in the US are racing to finish our income taxes. We cry and moan about having to pay them but gee, how many people consider it a blessing we made so much money last year we have to give some back? This does not mean I support most of the things our particular government is spending our money on, just gratitude that we live where we do, and have managed to put ourselves into careers that keep us safe, warm, and provide for the animals that are our biggest luxury. I too was on my own at a young age and when I look back from a lofty age of 54, I am amazed at my young resourcefulness and that I survived without going to the streets. Carmon
PermalinkPermalink 04/15/07 @ 09:38
Comment from: admin [Member] Email · http://www.doubledeckerbuses.org/
Hi Kim... It is amazing the amount of apathy and genuine cynicism when it comes to the poor and especially the homeless. My personal experience as well as observation is that MOST of them will rather buy food than booze as a rule... but the "vocal"(?) and "identifiable" few ruin it for those truly needing a hand-up.

I'm glad you liked my offering... and like you, I survived and thrived... and yeah, I get a lot of people coming to me for advice because the ONE and MOST IMPORTANT thing I learned from my thankfully brief experience is that cutting to the quick, ensuring general welfare for yourself and those around you, and keeping the "karmic balance sheets" in good order is always the best way to make a wise decision.

Hey Carmon... Too true. I just did my "BlogTalkers" post about the tax situation et al... and yeah, I am a FIRM believer in the "leg up".
PermalinkPermalink 04/15/07 @ 12:39
Comment from: CyberCelt [Visitor] · http://advertising-for-success.blogspot.com
I struggled with what to do about these poor people. I am not going to stand there and debate whether or not they are on drugs or alcohol or whether they are a Christian...

I make up homeless bags. I put meat, fruit, water, crackers, cookies, napkin and plasticware in a bag and leave them in my car. Now, I may give food without guilt.

If I see a young woman, old woman or old man or anyone with a dog, I usually take them in for a few days. I will get them a motel room, a room at the shelter, etc. I do not give them money, but I will rent a room, buy dog food, clothes...

I just cannot drive on by. But for the grace of God go I...

PermalinkPermalink 04/15/07 @ 22:21
Comment from: Neo [Visitor] · http://lifeamongotherthings.blogspot.com
This is a touching post indeed.

At one time, I happened to be with two people and a few homeless children ran by and asked for money.
I was handing some that I had in my pocket to them when the two people with me, who were students of social service, told me that by giving them money I will be doing them more harm than good.

I did not agree with them then, but I could not think of any solid reason to convince them to the contrary. Now, I have a story that I can share with anyone who thinks that helping a homeless person could be wrong.
PermalinkPermalink 04/16/07 @ 03:04
Comment from: JHS [Visitor] · http://www.jhsiess.com
Thanks for sharing your story with us which was very brave. It is always good to stop and think before assuming that we know what another person's experiences have been or that we understand their perspective.

Hope you have a great week!
PermalinkPermalink 04/16/07 @ 03:21
Comment from: MsDemmie [Visitor] · http://msdemmie.wordpress.com/
Thank you for sharing - what a beautiful post. Happy BYB Sunday.
PermalinkPermalink 04/16/07 @ 07:51
Comment from: admin [Member] Email · http://www.doubledeckerbuses.org/
Hi Cybercelt... Allow me to speak for all those you've helped... Thank you VERY kindly.

One of the things I like to "give" to folks in need here in the city is a couple of bus/subway tokens along with money or food... that day, sadly, since I was only en route to shopping and not home, I didn't have my "stash" of tokens...

When you're in that position, food, shelter, warmth, and a way to get around are key and important.

Hey Neo... The argument most social services folks (and a few others) give is that by not "supporting" them with money will FORCE them to seek government help... that's fine, but again, as someone who's been in that situation... when they ask for your phone number and address, it slows the works... and when one isn't available, they force you into a shelter of their choosing... although some shelters are great and well run, some are like prisons... and the other "inmates" can be... well... problematic at least.

These folks DO need stability... but they need to find it on their own with minimal "orders" from a social services officer.

Question: If you were in that position, especially with children, would you want to be "mandated" as to where you and your kids would be living until you're assistance kicks in?

There has to be better ways...

Hello JHS... Not brave, just history and a little insight.

I've never felt "bad" or "awful" about what happened to me way back when... in fact, the only thing that truly bothered me when relating this tale is how my mother comes off... During that time, she was under an incredible amount of stress and justifiably so... married for thirty-years until one evening. Bang. Little wonder things went South.

Honestly, up to that point, I was living in a twisted fantasy... I was a "want" kid... never a "need". I had everything I "needed" and then some... so I wanted more... I had NO CLUE what being dirt-poor or having to do without was like... so in some ways, although a trial by fire, that lesson was a valuable one that I needed to learn. It allowed me to NEVER be like the women who were walking in front of me.

If certain folks WANT to hear that some homeless people ARE crack addicts who are just leeches on society, good news! I can tell them that!

Problem is, that's not all of 'em...

It's a little like saying that SINCE there were about five or six pro-baseball players in America in the 1980's that got caught with cocaine, ALL the baseball players in the 1980's were on coke... call it a hunch, but it ain't true...

Allo MsDemmie... Thanks kindly!
PermalinkPermalink 04/16/07 @ 08:24

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