Homeless but still human

25 Dec

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It’s Christmas time. People tend to be more generous around this time. You see them dropping hundreds of dollars on clothes, toys, and gifts for people…maybe even stuff for themselves. You also will find that people are more charitable during the holidays. I read an article in the Toronto Star about people who did good deeds. Stories like this restore my faith in humankind.

But, today, I was reminded that life isn’t as rosy as I’d like to think. Most people aren’t that kind. Today, on the subway, this man walked in and sat down. He quietly asked the woman beside him if she had any change. He was polite. He was not offensive or pressuring her. She didn’t even look him in the eye or bother telling him that she doesn’t have change. She just got up and moved further down on the train. He asked another one, and she just didn’t look at him either. Then, he got off at Queen station.

If I walked on the subway and asked someone for change, dressed as I usually do, I can guarantee you that I would be treated much better than that man. But is it fair that I get respect because I look “clean” and he gets none because his clothes are tattered and hair unkempt? People are people.

Whenever things such as this happen, I regret working downtown. I feel as if I lose a piece of myself each time I walk by someone without helping. I’m torn, between wanting to help and being able to. If I could afford to buy lunch for every street person I met, I would. But, at this point, it’s just not feasible for me. And, whenever I do help, I feel as if I’m not doing enough. Really though, a muffin might help fill you up for a day. But, what about the next day? How do I even know that that person will still be walking and breathing the next day?

I’ll admit, I usually don’t give out change to people on the street. And, yes, I do reason it as not wanting to give out change when I don’t know what it’s going toward. So, really, I’m not any more kind than anyone else. In fact, I’m just as much of a jerk as the next person. But, what happened to the simple decency to acknowledge someone? He was a human being. Is there anything else needed for you to simply shake your head “no” if you don’t have change? Or say, “I’m sorry I don’t”? Or even look him in the eyes? I don’t care if you even lie to him when you’re saying it. It’s the principle of giving someone respect and keeping his or her dignity intact.

People avoid eye contact or any contact for that matter. Maybe it’s fear or perhaps it’s ignorance or maybe it just hurts your heart a little too much to look. I never look away. It’s my way of reminding myself that: (1) I’m lucky as hell to have the life that I do, (2) When I can, I should give back and help someone out, (3) This world is in a sucky state and I need to do something, someday to fix that.

Yes, I know I’m young and idealistic. But, what’s wrong with that? I refuse to give up on dreaming that I can change something.

I can’t convince everyone (if there’s anyone reading) to buy someone on the street a muffin or lunch. I don’t even do that myself except from time to time.  But, at least acknowledge that person you walk by everyday. A simple smile or a thank you makes a difference as well. It helps to rebuild that dignity, that human connection.

This holiday season, I hope that you take the time to give back to your community. And, I thank all of the good people who do this already – you rock my socks and shoes! 🙂

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One Response to “Homeless but still human”

  1. rhinoforthehungry December 25, 2009 at 22:41 #

    You have made an important point. I work in downtown Atlanta, Ga. I do not give money to people on the street. I wrote about this on my blog
    http://rhinoforthehungry.wordpress.com on December 6th.
    I do not give money, but I do make eye contact and answer those asking for money. I think it it important to acknowledge the presence of others.

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