Thursday, May 22, 2008

till i can gain control again...

I didn't plan on it. I'm not even sure I would have liked the idea if it was posed to me, but somehow or another, this afternoon I found myself strolling down Whyte Ave in the pouring rain.

I stopped at the bank on the far west side of Whyte and then decided to make my way east. I managed to hit that peak moment where the rain picked up from its constant drizzle and became a full out pour. About half a block in I reconsidered. It wasn't cold, but it was a little chilly. People were rushing past me with umbrellas and raincoats with the hood up and I was wearing nothing more than jeans and a wool sweater. But, if you're gonna get wet....

So I kept on. And before I knew it, I was grinning and laughing and waving at people in restaurant windows who were pointing and smiling. A few blocks in, I stumbled upon a man asking for change, huddled between the overhang of two buildings. (Nothing unusual about that on Whyte ave) He had on a jacket and jeans and old black runners that let the puddles pour in through the rips and tears. He was grinning at me and said "how's your day sunshine?" I smiled back and stopped to chat for a little while. We talked about the beauty of the rain and the way people with umbrellas rush to get out of it while people who had no shelter - people like US - reveled in it. The way he said it took me by surprise a little. Looking down the street, I suddenly I felt more connected to this man hunched over with his hat out in his hand than I did to those shoppers scurrying under awnings and shaking their umbrellas out. I was sharing my day, my rain, my joy with him and when I looked back at him we both grinned and knew it.

Before I left home I had stuffed all my extra toonies and loonies lying around my room into my pocket for some unknown reason. I usually don't walk around with 5 pounds of change in my jeans, but today I did. He never asked me for money but before I walked away, I dug my hand into my pocket and poured whatever I had into his hat. He just looked down and laughed as I skipped away back into the deluge.

*I know, giving change to people who are begging on the street doesn't solve any problems. Many people I know complain about how its probably just supporting a drug/alcohol habit and it would be much more effective to donate to a street ministry or buy food/coffee/clothes/etc for the person. And while I understand this point of view, I think sometimes that it doesn't matter and its more important to connect. I shared my afternoon in the rain with him, my change is a far smaller gift.*


cayliedawn said...

i take the LRT to and from work at the legislature, and since it's only a 5-minute ride, my transit tickets stay validated for an hour and 25 minutes after i'm done with them. i usually leave them on top of the ticket validators for someone to hopefully find and use. today i was coming out of the university transit centre, and i left a ticket folded on top of a validator as a bunch of people came down the stairs. without making eye contact, i noticed a guy notice me doing it, and i watched out of the corner of my eye as he grabbed it from the validator and exclaimed to his friend how excited it made him. i know it's not that much. but it was neat to connect with him without connecting, you know? it felt like how your thing with that man felt, i think.

Jamie said...

I like this post Bri. Sometimes when people ask what you've been up to that day, it's hard to even know how to answer it, when you've had a day made up of moments like those. Thanks for giving us a peek into yours though, it was nice.

On the topic of giving change: I used to do it all the time. Then when I started working at the Seed I stopped, and instead told people which agencies were serving meals that night, or bought them a sub or something if I could sometimes. I felt like that was a more responsible way to help people.

But then, I thought Jamie, you are very arrogant, thinking the little pittance you give someone has to be done on your terms, in the way you happen to think is most responsible for that other person's life, not having known anything about that life. How presumptuous to assume they'd spend it on an addiction they may or may not even have, and if they do, maybe it's the thing they need to keep them alive for another day, you know?

Plus, sometimes people are so badly broken that they can't even be honest about what they need the money for. What if some woman has to pay the rent and is choosing to put out her hand instead of selling her body? Buying her a sandwich is not helping. What if a parent can't provide clothes for their child? What if some woman was just raped or some man was beaten, and all they really want at that point is a good stiff drink to numb out for a couple hours before they take the steps they're going to need to as they deal with that happening?

I think agencies are good. They work on helping people and advocating for them, and educating the public about the social injustices that result in people asking for change. However, no institutional act of love can ever compare to a personal act of love. You shared your company with that man and gave from your heart, and he knew that. If he spent it on hooch, he spent it a little happier. But I doubt he did.