I went to the gym today after work. Lately I’ve been taking city streets to get there, because I was having car issues and wanted to minimize my high-speed driving. But Car has been fixed, so I took the freeway.
I was halfway there went I started cursing myself. I realized that by taking the freeway, I’d be passing (and more than likely stopping) at a corner that frequently hosts a homeless person with a sign. And I realized that this is not the first time I’ve considered making a detour so as not to have to sit at a stop light, in my warm car, talking on my cell phone, possibly with a bag of food in my car, and try to ignore the “bum” on the corner, who is starving and freezing. Just the other day, in fact, I breathed a sigh of relief when the bum was on another corner of the intersection, and I didn’t have to deal with it. And by it, I mean my conflicted emotion when it comes to homeless people, and street-corner bums.
We all hear the stories, about the guy who “earns” $120,000 a year, tax free, by standing on the street corner. I myself have seen a guy taking money from cars around me, and then walking over to a fairly new Mercedes and driving off. Then there are the ones that use the money to buy alcohol. And I’m not saying that all bums are these people – but these are the “bad seeds” that give the “honest” bums a bad name.
My ex, M, was homeless. When he was 10, he, his father and mother, and his baby brother (an infant) lived out of a car for three months. They struggled. His dad worked three jobs, including mowing a graveyard. M mowed the graveyard while his dad was at one of his other jobs. They never stood on a street corner and begged.
I know the problems (at least, some of them) of being homeless. It’s one of those vicious cycles – you lose your job, can’t afford your house, and then can’t get another job because you don’t have a permanent address. And then, some people enjoy (for lack of a better word) being homeless.
So when I see the guy standing on the corner, a cardboard sign in his hands, that blank, vacant look in his eyes – I honestly can’t handle the conflict that goes on inside me. It’s sad. I want to help. But is it really helping? I try to do my part, donate food, clothing, etc to the right charities, and I remind myself of that during these times. But it doesn’t help the person standing outside my car window.