I had a sobering experience today that prompted me to write, so here goes.
I now have a (very short) walk to and from work which my boyfriend always takes with me, but today I decided to walk home alone. I approached a homeless man who I've seen many times before but never acknowledged, or at least not that I remember. He was sitting on the ground, right across the street from my downtown's biggest park and public library. Just sitting. Against a brick wall, scratching himself, and murmuring inaudible speech.
I started to walk past him when he asked me for money for food. I normally don't respond to people asking me for money, but today I did. I told him that I was sorry and that I didn't carry cash (I don't.) He looked down at my left hand and asked for the half drank bottle of water I was carrying. I was shocked. I handed it to him without question and went on my way. He thanked me and told me "It might help him." And as I walked, I fought back tears.
It's not often that people or situations touch me because honestly, I'm a big girl who's seen a lot of tough shit. But it's shocking sometimes, glimpsing into another person's version of reality. A bottle of water that I take so for granted (there are about twenty half-empty bottles in the back seat of my car...) is so valuable to someone who has so little. I'm not the kind of person who feels much pity, because as the daughter of someone who's been homeless more often than not, I realize the mistakes that it takes to get to that point in life. But at the same time, I would never hope that my father, who I admittedly still have much resentment for, will ever be at the point where he has to ask for water from strangers on the street.
I guess the saddest part of my encounter today was realizing many people would not have given up a plastic water bottle. Most people would not have stopped and talked. To be honest, I usually would not have talked to him but something in me told me I should today.
My interaction today, along with a few other meaningful experiences I've had lately, have inspired me to start doing more. Since I have weekends off now, I'm thinking of devoting at least one day a month to doing something for my community. I know one day isn't much, but I'm going to start there and see what comes of it. If any of my local friends are reading this -- I would love to have you join me. I don't want to do this because I feel like I have to or that I think I'm going to change the world. I just feel like I owe it to my city to help where I can.
And you, my fine friends of the Internet: do you know of any projects I could start online? I have so many friends online and I think a lot of us get really preoccupied with ourselves... I think it'd be nice to all get together on some sort of project to give back. What do you guys think?