Monday, August 01, 2005

Just Like Everybody Else Does

Earlier today, I was at the corner of College and Spadina and a homeless woman asked me to spare some change. Sometimes I have change to spare. Sometimes I don't.

Today I did.

She was an aboriginal-looking lady with a very gentle face - probably in her late thirties, but street people tend to look older than they are.

I gave her a quarter.

"Can I please ask you a question?" Her speech was slow and slurred. I figured she was drunk or mentally ill or both.

"Sure, go ahead." I wasn't meeting Andrew for another 20 minutes, so I was in no hurry. But I was really hoping she wasn't going to beg me to buy her more booze or a pack of smokes.

She said something but a streetcar rumbled by and I missed what she said. I asked her to repeat herself.

"Do you think I am a human being?"

That - in and of itself - is a jawdropping motherfucker of a question. But what amazed and moved me was how sincere she was. There was no bitterness in her tone. No anger. She asked me just so earnestly.

I could have cried.

I said something in the affirmative. She said something I didn't understand but instead of asking her to repeat herself again, I said the first thing that came to my mind.

"We're all equal, miss."

I walked away then. Maybe I shouldn't have.

The moral? Even if you can't/won't spare change, please treat street people with some decency. Say hello. Say "Sorry, not today". Nod. Make eye contact. Do something to acknowledge their existence. Don't ignore them outright or gingerly step past them like they're trash.

Easier said than done, I know. It's so easy to ignore things that make us uncomfortable.

(Now playing: "Love Is Nothing", Liz Phair)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nicely said Sofi. Working downtown i see street people everyday. Sometimes I give,sometimes I don't, but i don't always acknowlege them and you have inspired me to give a simple nod or "sorry". The only dude i'm never acknowlegding is this young guy who sits outside tim horton's at bay and bloor (every single day, even on weekends!) cuz i saw him in a car and getting out and sitting down on the sidewalk to start his "shift".
soon to be L squared

4:41 PM  
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