Friday, January 4, 2013

Free Stuff!

A few years back, I worked in high end retail. An average joe came in and said he was looking for coats for the women in his family. Thinking--"average guy" and "women"--I steered him to our less expensive $200 coats. They were beautiful, but they weren't Spanish Merino Shearling coats--which if you've never felt the real thing, feel like butter and are worth every penny.

My manager pulled me aside and said, "Eve, he just sold (insert large company) for (insert crazy number) million dollars. You can show him the other coats too."

The homeless and the plight of the homeless seems to be a hot topic right now. And rightly so.
Baby, it's cold outside!

I had a long talk with a woman who stores her medications here at the storage facility the other day. She expressed some concerns about living in the shelter. These are simply her words--her concerns. I fully recognize that this is one woman's perspective. I am open to other perspectives on the issues that she brought up with me.

She told me that the shelter is divided up into different sections: families, addicts, and working people. Each section is further divided into men and women, except the families. 

Here are some of the things she shared:

 If you're an addict or part of a family, you're more likely to get help.

The showers have no curtains or doors. 

She saw small children outside in the freezing weather standing near a group of people smoking spice. 

Her friend's doctor donated sleeping bags for everyone at the shelter. She knows of no one at the shelter who received a sleeping bag. 

Best Buy donated small televisions for everyone at the shelter. She knows of no one who received a television. 

A pan handler talked about bringing in "only $200" that day. 

There are residents who receive housing, food and furniture to start over who return to the shelter just months later. 

I have been trying to figure out how to share these concerns. I don't have answers. I don't have an agenda. But this is a woman who is trying to find work and who lives in the shelter. I hear a lot of opinions and rhetoric from people about the homeless. Form whatever conclusions you like from this list of concerns. I just thought it would be good to share the thoughts from someone who is in the situation.

The conclusions that I have drawn:

Some of the people in the shelter are there because they choose to be there.

Some of the people in the shelter are there because they have no other place to go.

Some of the people in the shelter work, but can't afford to pay for medications, food and housing.

Some of the people in the shelter are addicts who choose to take whenever possible in order to feed a habit that they cannot escape.

I am not accountable for how others behave. I am only accountable for how I behave towards others.

If you're going to pity a homeless person, then pity us all. We are all beggars in one way or another. Frankly, I'd prefer to be seen as a capable human being. Pity does no one any favors. But empathy and imagination motivates us to give sincere charity.

Take time to talk. Smile. Look people in the eye. If you feel prompted to share, then share. If you feel uncomfortable sharing, then don't.

I had a nice talk with a guy the other day who is staying at the shelter. He says that he used to be in the mortgage business, but he lost everything. He spends his days writing now. He looks forward to the next phase in his life, but he's doing his best right now. He's just where he is right now.

The fact is--everybody is finding their own way through this world. We all have our weird survival strategies. And most of us are just surviving economically.

Today I am grateful that life is about more than just whether I have money. I am grateful for good conversation, smiles, friendship, scriptures, music, love, beauty.... So many good things that transcend failure and success. These are things I will enjoy whether I have the money to buy all my friends fancy new coats or whether I can only offer a slice of pie!


Melissa said...

The plight of the homeless is an interesting one. Initially my concern or irritation I guess, was the things being donated that weren't being used...but then I thought again and wondered if there was something else they were being used for.
I stopped donating to organizations because I became irritated that the bulk of my donation wasn't going to what I wanted it to be going for.
I suppose I content myself with giving a larger fast offering, knowing that all of it will be given to people who need help buying food, clothes, paying bills, etc...Having Shane be ward clerk for a few years really gave him an insight into what fast offerings really do.
I didn't realize we paid very much, it was what I was taught to do, but when we met with our financial adviser he was impressed with how much we donated given our income level. I looked at him in shock, and told him I felt like we didn't give enough.
I don't envy the rich. I think it would be difficult to determine how much was enough? How many starfish should I, could I save?
Being where I am at now, sure more money would be nice but I have to content myself knowing that if I had more, I would give even more.

Eve said...

You make some great points Melissa. Really great observations. Thank you!