Sunday, February 1, 2009

No Direction Home

What would it be like to be homeless? Without any refuge whatsoever? I'm talking not even an Anarchist collective or a squat to go to. I can't fathom it. I can't fathom what it would be like to really and truly live like Dylan said, to be 'without a home, with no direction home.' I was in New York a week or so ago, and the people camped out in subway station bathrooms and every corner of Battery Park incite in me a very real anger at those who knowingly or unknowingly put them there.

It was cold, freezing actually. With windchill, it was definitely below zero. Still, there they were, a mass of men and women, linked together in their poverty, wrapped in rags and plastic garbage bags, taking refuge in alleys to avoid the wind. It's not right for them to have to live this way, especially not in the 'richest nation on the face of the earth,' as so many economists lovingly put it. It's another case of the rich man winning and the poor man dying. Slowly, achingly bitter and slow, the poor man dies because of how the rich man lives.

I found a scarf on the ground after my family and I left a diner restaurant. It was wool, and well made, about 30 inches maybe, and gray. It was thick and warm. I draped it over my arm and we continued walking, eventually cabbing to get to the subway. We walked in the first set of doors and I saw maybe six people, all homeless, lying around on the ground. A few were asleep on blankets and plastic, two were talking, and the rest were rattling cans as people pretended they didn't see them. I deposited some bills, as I always do when I see people on the street, and then continued into the subway. I stopped at the bathroom to take a leak before we got on the train, and saw another man in the bathroom, older, but not old. He had a sleeping bag tied to his backpack, and a winter hat jammed over his head. He was shouldering his stuff to go back out into the cold. I gave him the scarf and my last six bucks without a word, and he stammered a thanks to me that I really didn't understand. What I did understand was the glow in his eyes, the look of complete, honest thanks. That I understood, and I was happy too.

Even though the government could help these people in one fell swoop with their funda and projects and stimulis packages, they won't. Greed blinds them to the less fortunate's plight. We are the ones who have to help out those in need, the homeless, the addicts, the people who are suffering. If they won't do it, we can, and we will. All I did was give a man a scarf I found lying in the street and a completely trivial amount of money (to most anyway). It changed his night, it showed him someone cared. Do that. Do what I did. I do it everytime I go to a big city, and I do everything I can to help the tiny community of homeless people in my little town. I do it and it feels right. I will continue to directly help these people who are hurting, and I will do it myself, without an agency or a corporation or an organization. You should do it too. You'll understand what an impact you have when you hand that woman a ten-dollar bill or a coffee you got from McDonald's.

but hey, don't take my word for it--go do it yourself. Don't forget about those who everyone else seems to have forgotten.

We are not numbers, we are not commodities.


Amber said...

Wow! That's really amazing. I never really go anywhere especially big cities. But if I were to go, I would definately do what you did. The problem with that is that my mother and I really don't have the money to go places like that, which is why I always am around here. I have only seen one homeless guy lately, in this area. I see him at the library the most. I feel so bad for him but I really don't have anything to give him. I feel so bad for people who have to go through that and it sucks because I really don't have money either but I at least have a home.

Monkey Wrench said...

Amber, your heart is in the right place. That compassion is what most people just don't have. You're already halfway there!



Amber said...

Yea. I know. The world would be a better place if more people thought about others more than they worried about themselves. I personally know that I always think about others and care more about them than I do myself. I don't know why I am that way but in some ways that is good and some I guess it can be bad.

And no problem.