Frailty

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I have a real hard time dealing with homelessness.  But, it’s hardest to deal with when:

– It’s a woman

– It’s raining

– The homeless person tries to connect with me to beg for money

In tonight’s encounter, I’m running around doing errands, spending money I don’t really have, but getting done what I must.  I’m also trying to get ready for a comedy show on Sunday night, so I’m trying to get spending money from the bank, gas up my car, and do all the other things that one does to prepare for a fun event with a friend.

So, it’s been pouring off and on all day, and I need to fill the tank.  Thinking about the route I’m traveling and the cheapest place to get gas without back tracking between where I was at and home, I decide to hit a local gas station that’s looking a bit seedy.

I do a run around all the pumps, and there’s some boards up by the garage doors, but the shop door is open.  All the pumps ONLY sell 87 regular gas, which is fine by me, but still weird.

So, I do the run around the pumps and end up parking farther away from the storefront than I would normally choose, but it looked safe.  Foolish me.

As I’m pumping the gas a seemingly homeless woman comes up to me and starts to beg.  I give her the hairy eye ball and gruffly tell her, “Not while I’m handling money!” in a firm voice.

As so many of the mentally frail do, she steps back immediately, hurt, and walks away upset because she feels I yelled at her.  She stops and says to me, “It’s ok to talk to you on the street!  I didn’t do anything wrong!” as she continues to walk away, agitated and upset.

Now, I don’t know this woman from Adam.  She’s not one of the regulars that I can recognize on sight.  But, she’s upset and I feel like I’ve kicked a kitten.

So, I proceed to fill my gas tank while keeping an eagle eye out.  She keeps an eye on me, and approaches a man coming out of the storefront, and he shoos her away, too.

The weather is miserable.  She’s mostly clean.  But, she’s in sandals and it’s wet and raw out.  She’s got a blanket over her shoulders, a hat on her head, and she’s layered up with these ridiculous bare feet in sandals.  Sad.

So, now I’m kicking myself for being so paranoid that I scared a sad homeless woman.  She could be me.  She could be my friend, C, who is now in the board and care home up in the Inland Empire area near the boonies…  I’m feeling like shit, when I was just protecting myself.  But, I need to make amends.

So, the car is full at 36 dollars, and I pull a $10 bill out of my wallet, heading toward the homeless woman who is now pacing and watching me approach.  Clearly, she’s in fear as to why I’m heading toward her after yelling at her.

“Look”, I say.  “You should NEVER come near anyone, but especially a woman, when we are filling up our cars and trapped at the pumps.  You scared me, and I worry about being mugged.  Now that I’m done filling my car, what did you want to ask me?”

Like a bird, she looked at me sideways, trying to smooth her ruffled feathers.  “I really just wanted to know if you could spare anything” she says, over the cigarette in her mouth.  “I’m sorry I scared you.”

“I’m sorry I upset you, too.” I replied.  “I appreciate your backing off when I asked you to leave me be, and I’m happy to share what I have with you in the hopes that it will help you in some small way.”

She smiles like a little kid at Christmas and takes the money.  “Can I give you a hug?” she asks, tentatively.

Now, anyone who knows me knows that I need my space and hate to be touched, but this was not about me.  This was about letting this woman know that I saw her and saw her humanity in a very difficult situation, so we hugged.

Not to miss an opportunity, she then asks if she can use my phone to call a friend for a ride.  I had to smile and let her know that I don’t carry a phone.  I’m not sure she believed me, but that’s ok.  I wasn’t going to be able to resolve her difficulties, but we’d come to terms so that I wasn’t adding to her burden for that small moment of time.

Frailty.  It comes to us all, and I’m thankful that I have a roof over my head on this Wintery, wet, night.  I still have $10 for my share of the concert parking tomorrow night, and life goes on.  Compromise and sharing a tiny bit of what I have allows me to look at myself in the mirror, even if the money goes for cigarettes and alcohol.  With any luck, it will go toward a nice meal and a dry place to sleep tonight, if she can find enough folks to pitch in.

Der Orange Doofus, however, is determined to divert money from our already weakened safety net, and it hurts me that people like this woman don’t have better resources than what she can beg on a rainy evening.  There but for the luck of the draw go I.

3 thoughts on “Frailty

  1. You helped her. That’s the point. Many can’t find the compassion in their souls to do that (me among them). I’d have yelled at her for real and driven away without looking back. The fact that she could afford cigarettes means to me she had a bit more than was evident and that she was possibly scamming people. That’s me seeing through my cynical filter and being judgmental about someone I don’t know the real story about. Der Orange Doofus can’t totally win while compassionate and caring people still exist. There, where that sad creature in the rain exists, but for the grace of God go so many of us.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I look at her cigarettes the same way people looked at me while I purchased flowers while unemployed vs. saving every penny.

    Addictions are a tough thing, and begin stressed just increases the need for coping tools. Another reason why I would buy a small potted plant or splurge on a taco bell meal when underemployed or out of work. Sometimes, you just have to know that you can afford to buy the foolishness. That depriving yourself of the one moment to feel better by spending small amounts to boost your spirits will help you get through hell until things improve is EXACTLY what you need to do to hang on to your mental health.

    The world spends enough time kicking us all when we are down. We need to kick back from time to time by doing the foolish thing to make ourselves feel real.

    As for whether or not you give, that’s ok. We give when we can. If you feel you can’t, then that’s the right decision for you. None of us are on the same path, even if we are all on the same journey.

    I can tell you that getting mugged by the girl scouts every time I leave a super market is a real exercise in saying “no”, but especially because I was a girl scout and want these girls to see that they can make a difference. But, the budget isn’t what it used to be (and I’m not supposed to be eating all that chocolate in the thin mints, so I compromise by giving them extra money and taking less boxes of cookies. Stupid, but that’s how I’m rolling this season, LOL.

    Liked by 1 person

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