For those of you who have watched the show Arthur on PBS, there is a part in several episodes when it comes time for the children to go to recess. As soon as the bell rings, Buster always pushes the door open first and yells out, “Recess!” as all the other school children run around him to the playground. Well, that’s basically how I felt when I finished my last final today. I can’t even say I tried my hardest because I was just so done with school.
Well, I was super excited as I walked away from school to ride the TRAX for the last time for the summer. I got on, opened up my book, and started reading Fabelhaven. (Great series, by the way). I soon got distracted by two people sitting behind me.
From what I gathered, it was two homeless people who knew each other and hadn’t seen each other for a long time. The lady was asking where the man had been. “Oh, I’ve been in (some place I can’t remember). But it’s too hard to get work there. It’s much easier to get disability benefits and live in Salt Lake. I have everything I need here.”
“Are you headed over to the shelter right now?”
“Yeah, I’ve got to pick up a few things.”
“Is that where you stay for the summer?”
“Nah, you know that park in Sugarhouse? That’s where I stay. It’s really nice, up away from the cars and the cities. At night I just set up my sleeping bag and lay under the trees. During the day I pack it away behind some bushes. I don’t like the shelter during the summer. The only reason I go is to shower and sometimes eat.”
During this conversation I got a glimpse of the lady behind me. She looked kind of funky, with two braids running down the front of her forehead and glasses at the tip of her nose. She looked like a homeless version of Professor Trelawney on Harry Potter. Then they talked about storage units.
“Where do you keep all your stuff?” asked the lady.
“I have a storage unit on (some street I can’t remember). It’s only $25 a month, not bad.”
“That’s not bad at all.” (I wouldn’t know, I’ve never stored anything besides in my closet.)
“Yeah, I try to keep my life simple. I don’t need much. Don’t spend too much. The city is best for me because it has everything I need to live.”
By this point my book lay completely forgotten in my hands as I listened to their conversation. I started to think about what I had in common with the man: I look for cheap things, he has a cheap storage unit; I love camping, he lives in a park where it’s quiet and peaceful; he tried to live life simply, I love growing my own food and living simply as well.
Then she got up to leave, and he moved up towards the front of the cart. I was genuinely surprised by how he was dressed when I finally saw him. He could have been someone’s grandpa! No sign of homelessness at all! He was clean shaven, had faded but clean clothes, and didn’t look ragged or dirty. Just goes to show that even homeless people shouldn’t be judged, and my misconceptions on people throughout this semester have really altered my way of looking at others. The man he ended up sitting across was a larger man, and apparently he was homeless too because the first man knew him and started talking to him about the shelter. The second man also was clean shaven, clean in appearance, and had clean clothes on. I would never in my life have guessed the two of them were homeless.
The second man looked out the window. “Man, now that the weather is getting warmer, I’ve been craving fried chicken.”
“Yeah, Kentucky Fried Chicken. That’s the best. And with ten dollars, you can get a whole bucket of wings!”
“Or you could go to the buffet and get endless chicken.”
“I still like KFC the best. If I get that job tomorrow, I’ll have fried chicken tomorrow night!”
Then they got off the stop to the shelter.
Now I was thoroughly depressed. That man can’t just go eat KFC whenever he likes, he has to worry about getting money first. Ten dollars! And he was so excited when he was talking about it, it just broke my heart that he didn’t have money to eat it right then and there. I really regret not thinking to just give the two of them some money at that moment. I would tell the first to put some of it towards his next month’s storage unit payment and the second to go eat KFC.
I don’t think the majority of the population of the world realizes how sad homelessness is. Sometimes it’s their fault. Most of the time, it’s not. Think about the Great Depression. Over thirty percent of Americans were unemployed. It wasn’t their fault. It just happened. That’s the case today, too. And constantly I hear stuff like, “Well, they should just go get a job!” If anyone ever says or thinks that, they simply don’t know the facts. Homeless people can’t just “Go get a job.” Teenagers get jobs. College students get jobs. Think about it. If you were an employer, would you give someone a job who didn’t have an address? It would be very hard to do so, because you wouldn’t know if they had a safe place to go back to, so you wouldn’t know if they would be back the next day. It wouldn’t be a reliable thing to put on a resume. If you were an employer, most of you wouldn’t hire a homeless person, so I don’t know why you expect others to. The best thing that I can do now is to give them some money. I know many people are extremely against that. But why? It’s not our place to judge what they do with the money. It’s our place to help. They just need some help from those of us who can help. On a different perspective, it’s like us asking God for forgiveness. How many times have we asked for forgiveness, then go and mess up again. Yet, we always ask again for forgiveness. Heavenly Father doesn’t say, “No, you’ll just take my forgiveness and go do drugs again.” He forgives us. So we should do the same and be compassionate to everyone.
Needless to say, by the time I got home, I was no longer ecstatic for my summer to start, I was worrying about whether or not that man was going to eat KFC tomorrow night.
Someday, I will have enough money to get a homeless person back on their feet again. I’ll help them find a job, a cheap place to live, and help them until they become self-sufficient.
I would want the same thing if I were homeless.