My plan was to write a light-hearted post about the antics of my dog, Sonny. But I find I just can't. You see, I can't get this scene from yesterday out of my head, so I'm going to have to purge it here. (Sorry.)
I was driving to Rubios to pick up my lunch yesterday, as I often do (so often, in fact, that they say, "Beth?" when I call in my order these days). I was the first car stopped at the light in the left turn lane. There was a guy standing on the median with a simple sign that read homeless, hungry, and I think something else, but that's all I saw before I started to turn my head away. But it was no use, he'd already gotten to me. I opened my purse to find I had a measly $3 in my wallet. I grabbed $2 ('cuase I hate to not have any money at all) and opened my window to hand it to him.
He took it, and I smiled, and I thought we were done. But we weren't; for whatever reason he felt the need to give me an explanation. He looked right into me and said, "I lost my job, I've got a wife and a kid, we're sleeping in our car."
Was it the truth? I think so. He was not one of those totally scrappy dudes you see in their same spots day after day, hustling up money for whatever it is they put in their paper sacks to help them make it through yet another day on the streets. This guy had new-ish sneakers and a decent coat. He did not have a sleeping bag or big sack with him. It was just him in his coat with his sign.
But it wasn't his clothing that made me feel his truth. It was his shame. It was as though he felt compelled to give me his story. To let me know that he had fallen on hard times and was doing this for his family, that this was not some game, or some alcoholic's ruse.
What do you say? How do you reply? I think I said, "Oh, man, that sucks." And of course, it does, but shit, is that it? Is that all I've got?
I teared up as I made that left. Sometimes the injustices of the world overwhelm me. I'm driving my husband's luxury SUV because I'm sick of driving my perfectly acceptable old jeep. I'm headed to Rubios to pick up my favorite lunch because I can. I turn my heat on when the temperature goes below 60 degrees. I spend $10 on a six pack of beer. I constantly find myself needing to cull my family's belongings because we somehow always have too much crap.
Would my grilled grande bowl with chicken or bag of household castoffs help this guy's situation? No, not really, although the six pack might help for a spell.
But encounters such as this make me wonder what should we do? How should we deal with the inequity?
Economic disparity is not new, I realize, but it does seem to be worse that it used to be. The economic downturn is more than an inconvenience for many. And this guy and his magnetic stare really made me stop to think about: how. good. I. have. it.
So, as we head into Thanksgiving, I for one am going to count my myriad blessings. I'm sure you all are too.