You see them on the street corners, at intersections, in parking lots, in front of grocery stores and banks. They look scary, rough and dirty. You’re afraid of getting too close to them because you are pretty sure they are riddled with some sort of contagious disease that you are absolutely not in the least bit interested in catching.
They are the homeless.
They have cardboard signs that, for the most part, are written out illegibly. Some just have old Styrofoam coffee cups placed in front of them. Others have their guitar cases laid out on the sidewalk while they desperately try to catch your attention with an old Neil Young tune.
The dirty and the disgusting
The street people. The drug addicts and the drunks.
You walk by pretending not to see them. You secretly wish they would just go away. They disgust you and, quite frankly, you are totally appalled by their appearance and their constant begging.
“Geezus. Why can’t they just go find a job like the rest of us? Those filthy beggars. They’re so gross and disgusting!!”
Sound familiar? That’s what I thought. It’s easy to think like that actually.
In today’s day and age, most of us are struggling to keep up with the rising cost of living, paying off credit cards and filling our tank with gas that costs way too much money while working jobs we dread going to.
We work our butts off to survive day to day and here are these “people” on the streets begging for money. How can we NOT be annoyed or pissed by that, right?
And we walk by them and shout “get a job”.
This is their safe place. The place where they can put their signs away, exchange the dirty coffee cup (that has little money in it) for a clean one filled with coffee, tuck the guitar case away in the corner and settle in for a nice hot meal served by people who don’t judge them. They sit and laugh among themselves and joke heartily with the mission volunteers, myself being one of them.
This is where the homeless come and hang out and feel respected and comforted. They are safe here. The only place in the world they know there is love and compassion.
They have good manners. We all say grace before meals and they ALL remove their hats before grace. They all say “thank you very much for the great dinner” and I can usually get hugs. Many. They are all pretty harmless. Really.
They are people just like you and I.
I take a minute to tell the young native girl that she looks absolutely beautiful in her pretty summer dress and she looks at me surprised, maybe even a little shocked that someone has paid her a compliment, and slowly smiles.
Gradually her whole face lights up as she says thank you. She has the sweetest smile.
I joke with Paul and tell him that he is pure trouble and if he steps out of line I’ll be eating his dessert. He laughs and quickly shoots back that if I do “there will be Hell to pay”!!
I sneak an extra glass of milk to the young man who looks agitated and he touches my hand, gives me the most sincere look I’ve seen in a long time and whispers ” God bless you, thank you so so much.”
And then there’s the homeless guy Steve, an older native man, who doesn’t come in drunk but always smells of alcohol, who is convinced I am the girl he is going to marry. I keep telling him he can’t handle me. He flashes a toothless grin and shakes his finger at me.
And my favourite one, Andrew. He has the most beautiful eyes. He is so quiet and shy. He never talked to anyone. I befriended him and we used to hang out, whenever I could find him that is, and if I had time. He would tell me about his broken family and how he missed his mom. He was 21.
When I was back in Canada, this mission was where my purpose found me. This is where my mind was blown wide open to the beauty and struggles of the homeless people.
Some cold evenings (and I mean -20 C cold) I used to go the local coffee shop, pick up a few coffees and head to the streets to give them out. One night I sat with an older gentleman on the sidewalk in front of a closed store.
We sat and talked for a couple of hours. I suffered through the cold, just like him, to find out what it was really like. I wanted to see what it was like to be a homeless person on a cold night in downtown Sudbury.
You know what I found out? People are fucking assholes.
So many walked by and said “you know if you had a job you wouldn’t have to be sitting there dumbass” …..what??
And then there was this one “no way in hell am I giving you money to support your drug habit, loser, that’s your problem, get a life”…….what???
Oh and then one more which I actually had to laugh at (clearly they thought I was his girlfriend) “pimp out your girl, surely you’ll get enough for some crack”…lol…but wait…what???
Not one person, in two hours, gave him money.
Jerry ( I think that was his name) served time in the war. He had PTSD and more disabilities than you can shake a stick at, mostly mental health issues though. He’s too old and too beat up to work anymore.
And of course, the government shit on him. There’s a surprise.
Jerry tells me he’s ok on the streets. He’s used to it now. He’s also used to ignorant people. “You have to have thick skin Iva”, he tells me. I dig deeper. I wanna know more. What’s the worst treatment you’ve received on the streets.
His answer shocked me to the core and I’ll never forget it.
College and university kids. He has the most trouble with them. They have beaten him, thrown garbage at him, taunted him, you name it, they’ve done it.
You little fucking douchebags. I can’t even. I hope you’re homeless one day.
I think “Compassion for Humans” should be a mandatory course for every kid in the world right until the day they graduate from University.
Anyway after two hours with Jerry I got back in my car, frozen and crying. My heart was so broken.
These are the people on the street that you have snubbed.
People are people. Period. Treat everyone with kindness and respect. Yes some of them are drug addicts, some are hard core alcoholics, some have severe mental health issues, most have no family or have been rejected.
But one thing they all have in common is they all want love and respect.
That’s all anyone wants.
I love you ❤
Peace and Love
xo iva xo