20 February 2007

human nature

Today I was driving home and while I waited to make a left onto Broadway from Clarke, I noticed a woman begging with a cardboard sign, standing on the median of the busy street. Homeless people are, unfortunately, all over the place in Vancouver. The climate is mild and so people tend to migrate West. The thing about this woman was that she was relatively healthy-looking and fairly well-dress. She had a sweater and hat and gloves on (it's mild, but not spring yet). Her sign read "I'm begging because I have no where to go. I'm all alone. Anything will help." I know lots of people get irritated constantly being asked for money on the street. Dren isn't the most compassionate when it comes to the homeless....he feels like there are resources for people if they really want help. I feel like I'm not necessarily informed enough to judge either way.

As I watched, the woman turned her attention to a truck in the lane just to the right of mine. She stepped off the median into the street. I thought that maybe someone was giving her some change. The light turned green, and I saw her make an animated gesture with her gloved hand. When she turned to walk back to the median she was crying. My heart sunk. I just felt so bad for her. Her face was red from the cold. I honked and pointed to the other side of the street. I stopped at the bus stop and put my hazard lights on. She walked up beside the car and I handed her the lone $5 bill from my wallet. I don't even normally have cash on me, but I remembered that I had change from something yesterday. I told her it was all I had. She said "thank you" and I told her to take care of herself. She said she was trying. I drove away. I felt pressure to get going. It was rush hour and I was on my way to pick Jaxon up. It felt wonderful to be able to do that, but then a feeling of sadness washed over me. I wanted to know what her deal was. I wished that I had offered for her to be able to talk to me if she wanted. I wished that I had had more money or that I could afford to give her more somehow.

As many homeless people as there are in this city, we usually only get to see the negative sides of them...or the parts that we don't understand (much of the city's homeless population suffers from mental illness and/or drug addiction). A glimpse into this woman's life for a brief fleeting moment reminded me that homeless people are still people. This woman, whoever she is, has feelings and a soul.

I don't know why I feel like I should be able to do more...a weird guilt thing that I'm not doing enough, I can't say no, etc. That's my own issue and every time something happens to make me feel those feelings I have the opportunity to learn and grow and change. But on this particular day I also need to remember what I did, that it was just enough for that exact moment, and that it gave me the opportunity to think about people and human nature. To remember that there is enough negativity in the world without assuming there is more.

13 comments:

Wendy Bretz said...

You are just the NICEST person in the world!

Jen said...

I loved this post Gen...it speaks volumes about the kind of person YOU are.

Breanne Crawford said...

good for you.

i have so much respect for people who help out the homeless or anyone else in need (without judging).

some people don't know that a good majority of the homeless people, at least in the United States, are so because the government shut down all the state mental hospitals. they were open one day and literally closed the next with no warning. these people were released on the streets in big cities with little more than the clothes on the back and maybe a few dollars in their pockets, if that. it's the reason so many seem "scary" because they need meds.

my heart bleeds for the homeless. my heart bleeds for anyone who needs help. the social worker in me wants to save them all. the realist in me struggles with the knowledge that it's not possible.

good for you for making a small difference in someone's life. and thank you for sharing your story. (and sorry for the super long comment!)

Breanne Crawford said...

good for you.

i have so much respect for people who help out the homeless or anyone else in need (without judging).

some people don't know that a good majority of the homeless people, at least in the United States, are so because the government shut down all the state mental hospitals. they were open one day and literally closed the next with no warning. these people were released on the streets in big cities with little more than the clothes on the back and maybe a few dollars in their pockets, if that. it's the reason so many seem "scary" because they need meds.

my heart bleeds for the homeless. my heart bleeds for anyone who needs help. the social worker in me wants to save them all. the realist in me struggles with the knowledge that it's not possible.

good for you for making a small difference in someone's life. and thank you for sharing your story. (and sorry for the super long comment!)

*~*Jocelynne*~* said...

Great post Gen! I try to help out people as much as I can...not just financially cuz we couldn't for a long time, but just things like giving a woman a ride home because her car broke down. Even if it was just a couple blocks, in the snow it would have taken her forever! Just stuff like that makes a lot of difference, and it takes guts.

You seem to be a pretty giving person from what I read on your blog. I hope you won't beat yourself up for not doing more, because honestly, that one act of kindness is more than A LOT of people would ever do.

PS Did the people in the truck say something to make her cry? Why the hand gesture? Or was she crying cuz the light turned and she didn't get to the truck fast enough?

danielle said...

LOVE this post. Makes me think. You're an amazing person, girl. :-)

danielle said...

LOVE this post. Makes me think. You're an amazing person, girl. :-)

gabbyfek said...

you are so wonderful.
and your heart is as big as the sky.
love you, girlie.
xoxox,
g

Jamie said...

Ok now I have the lump in my throat.
Just like I do every time I see a homeless person who breaks my heart.
Which is often.
I agree I wish there was more I could do also.
I try to donate food and clothing to shelters and such hoping it helps SOMEONE.
This post just makes me like you EVEN more.

sarah said...

you are an amazing woman.

I've admit I've been guilty of sometimes just seeing the negative sides of the homeless (I think if we're honest we all have at some point). But you're right. They are still people, with feelings and a soul. And they're trying to survive, and get thru another day. Just like all of us on some level.

Thanks for that reminder this morning Gen.

***tiffany said...

I know this is a little off -- but maybe it's a little something to make you smile.

A couple weekends ago I helped celebrate a friends BD, we ended the night at a strip club. I always have such a hard time handing over money the husb. gives me, just for someone dancing half dressed, so I usually end up with cash I end up speding at the LSS.
However, the next day there was this homeless guy at the gas station....and I gave it all to him. ABout 16$. He nearly fell over.
Point is, there are diff. reasons/ways to help people -- but you can't go on feeling guilty for someone else's life. You should instead feel good that out of all those people you helped...

kla said...

I love you.

~*AMY*~ said...

Wow, this post spoke volumes to me. And I cried the whole time I read it. My heart just breaks for all people in need, including the homeless.

The area that I'm from, I've never been exposed much to this. I live in a super rural area and I have never personlly saw a homeless person on the street. In the area I live in we have "other" problems. Lots of battered women, abused children and abused animals (but I guess that is anywhere huh).

Last summer my family went on vaca to DC. We saw LOTS of things there that we had not seen before. We were walking down the street and we came upon a homeless man. My daughter says immediately "Mama, he's poor, we have money and we need to give it to him". I could feel myself starting to tear up. I gave her the money and let her give it to him and it made all of us, including him, totally happy.

Wow, enough rambling from me~