Monday, November 19, 2007

Sorry. I'm in a mood.

This time of year always does it to me.

I have a low threshold for seeing people struggle for the everyday things most of us take for granted.

It crushes my soul a little more each time.

Yesterday I watched an elderly man crossing very busy Snelling Avenue. It was a nice enough day, but he was wearing shorts. And a mismatched very light jacket.

Normally, "funny me" would write about his fashion choice in detail, sparing no prisoners. I could write a paragraph on the whole ensemble, in the right mood.

But watching him, with his slightly hunched back, shuffling gait, and obviously difficult journey with four heavy-looking shopping bags, I started to feel stupid, selfish and very, very small.

He moved so slowly that the light changed before he had time to get all the way across.

He was struggling under the weight of his groceries and other purchases. He was having a really hard time just crossing the street.

Some people were assholes, inching their cars up to kind of "push" him along.

A few honked.

I hate those people with every tiny cell in my body. I hope someday this is them.

I just sat there, helpless.

The light was long, I thought about my "struggles" versus this man's. I wondered where his life was when he was thirty-six. Had his difficult existence come about via bad life decisions, laziness, or refusal to adapt? Had he alienated everyone in his life so that he now had no one? Did a great catastrophe in his life force him into poverty?
Or, did everyone who could help simply...die?

I thought, How did he get to this point and how can I avoid this? Can I help this man? Is there any point in trying?

This time if year the struggle is everywhere: The mom in the grocery store that only has enough money for a few items, so she has to say "No" to her child when they ask for something little, but unnecessary.

The longer lines at the soup kitchen, and more kids there than usual.

Parents fighting with each other in Target because the stress of not having enough money this time of year is pushing them over the edge.

It's just suffocating sometimes, that's all.
Today is one of those times.

I should have given that guy a ride.
Or something.


Distributorcap said...

there are many many homeless who live right the entrance to the 14th street subway station..

and it gets even rougher to see it this time of year......

now you have me thinking......

Winter said...

If you were trying to make me cry...

-R- said...

This is the time of the year when you start seeing more homeless people in the skyways because it is getting cold outside. It's so easy to ignore the homeless in the summer, but now I am reminded every day just how many people there are who have nothing.

Kate said...

Thank you for a perspective-giving post. I can't believe I'm bitching about not getting the house with the enameled window trim when there are serious serious things happening, and people who are seriously in need. My parents would be effing ashamed of me.

You have a good heart, M. A very good heart. Thank you for sharing.

Landis said...

oh honey. honey honey honey.
i know the crushing feeling. i know the desire to cry.

try this.

ONE SMALL THING. just pick it. one small thing that you CAN do. it will help. it will change your world.

tim and i now refuse to pass anyone who asks for "change" or "help" without giving them at least a dollar. even if we have to go to a cash station. even if we have only a five on us. no one goes without some form of help. no questions, no judgement, no hesitation.

it helps. you AND them. just one small thing.

Butrfly Garden said...

We're going through something at home right now. I don't think my family will ever be the same. But, last night, among the tears, I had to be grateful that at least we aren't helping our kids fight for their lives, or mourning their loss like the families in Mankato. Because as bad as we may have it, there's always someone who has it worse.

T said...

Thanks, WM. A good reminder that it could be any of us, really. And let's not to be ingrates this holiday season.

dguzman said...

I agree with Landis; I try to give homeless people whatever I have in my pocket, and I don't give a shit what they use it for.

What gets me is that there just can't be any kind of justice in a country where some people have so damned little, yet others pile up twenty-deep at 3a.m. in front of the mall entrance to get those stupid Door-Busters. Our country is so screwed up, with no end in sight.

sorry for the downer comment...

lizgwiz said...

It's overwhelming sometimes, isn't it? The sheer amount of suffering in the world? And, as much as we'd like to think otherwise, it's not all "over there" some place. It's right here.

I try to do whatever little things I can. That's all I can do, I guess, until I hit it big in the lottery, then watch out!

CDP said...

You did do something, you felt for him and you reminded all of us to think about him and others like him.

Inarticulate Fumblings said...

Reading you loud and clear. About a week ago I posted this posting speaking to much of what you are talking about.

I am as much at fault as you for the "funny me" commentary... but I just can't go there anymore.


Stacey said...

It really is a sad state of affairs isn't it ? I could go on about politicians and the government needing to do more but I won't. I will simply say that we can all take a part in helping in whatever small way we can. Even if it's simply donating our time. On another note - I have an uncle that is schizophrenic (and often refuses his meds) and because of his mental illness he spends much of his time on the streets. Sometimes we don't see him for months on end. We all want to help but many times he just outright refuses it. My mom and Aunts finally got him into a group home he enjoys but even still he ends up on the streets more often then not. It's a difficult situation and it breaks my heart.

Fran said...

It is hard WM and so difficult to know what to do.

I think the fact that you stopped to even think about it or him says volumes and good volumes.

And that kind of horn honking etc would have made me want to shout loud obscenities at those folks.

As others have said- and more eloquently than me, don't be too hard on yourself and find ways, whatever quiet little ways, to make a difference.

peace sister.

domboy said...

I think it's hard to know what to do, until you reflect on it, as you have done. I think it's good (though sometimes scary) to help people - but also important to raise issues with local officials, as they are the ones that can change fundamental things that can change a lot of people's lives. America is such a rich country, I'm always suprised at how many people are suffering there, but it doesn't need to be that way.

Liberality said...

the next time you see someone like this smile at them. let them know you see and recognize them as human. too many people look away in shame or anger. to look at the person and offer a smile is to offer a part of yourself to them. offer to help too as others suggested, those are all good suggestions.

Nature Girl said...

This is exactly the kind of thing that has me down right now. I saw a man going through the garbage in DC, opening every fast food bag in the bin looking for food as I was on my way to a very expensive restraunt for dinner. My own kid could very well have wound up in one of those soup kitchen lines last week. There were three people sleeping in the doorway of a highrise office building on a very cold night last week as I passed by in my warm wool coat. It breaks my heart. Thankfully, my kid is home, safe and sound, but I shudder to think what could have been and I've been sick over it for about a week now.
I don't know...this world is just too much for me to take sometimes...

Lollie said...

I think that sharing your perspective to the 18 of us is another kind of "help" that the world needs. We will spread it to our friends, and it will turn into sort of a humanitarian Breck campaign.