Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Worst Are Full of Passionate Intensity

She lives in a bushy area of the sidewalk next to a four lane road that we travel every day on the way to The Rooster's school.

Her four shopping carts are filled with plastic garbage bags and storage tubs.

She is always wearing a sweat stained, gray t-shirt, blue jeans and a backwards baseball cap.

Her carts and belongings are often strewn up and down the sidewalk in front of the U-Store-It facility, one of the nicer business establishments on this lonely, industrial stretch.

I'm puzzled by her presence there. She's alone, far from downtown - way out in the county.

The only things nearby are a grocery store, a funeral home and, about a mile up the road, there's a small county hospital.

Every morning and every afternoon my children look for her and ask about her.

Why is she always there? Why doesn't she have a home? What does she do when it rains?

I have found myself wondering lately if we should stop and offer help. Maybe the children would learn something about compassion...

We've yet to stop. I'm tentative, hesitant.

Though the organization I work for serves the homeless, my focus has always been on youth and education.

I don't have any direct experience with this issue.

At first, I think it's the approach that worries me.

What would I say?

I visualize myself trying.

First, I find somewhere to park my ridiculous mini-van, unbuckle my children from their car seats and march the three of us over to her like the Von Trapp family.

And then what?

What if it all goes horribly wrong in front of my kids?

I can think of a thousand reasons not to approach her.

Morning and afternoon we pass her and I finally realize why I've been stuck on this one.

I've been thinking about stopping for all the wrong reasons.

This homeless woman isn't there to teach my children a lesson.

If I can't stop and offer her help simply because she might need it, then I shouldn't bother stopping at all.

15 comments:

John Ross said...

It's a thing I deal with all the time,only in my case it's those folks who "fly signs" by intersections.(usually intersections where it's least likely that people are going to hold up traffic to give money-why is that?)

I find that when I'm most likely to give $ is, oddly enough, when I'm almost but not quite broke myself.

Thanks for a thoughtful & thought provoking post

jen said...

oh honey. you should totally stop. maybe she'd like some ice cream..it's so hot outside.

xo

Jane said...

You don't have to take the kids do you? I lived somewhere with a lot of street people and often the interactions were a bit difficult - swearing/tears/general rudeness - once a thrown beer bottle at my head (don't worry the throwers' brain injury + intoxication made it a weak throw that bounced off my noggin harmlessly). Also it's hard enough to be helped without there being an audience, in my experience. Maybe later, when you have established a bit of understanding you could take the kids.

Mainly I want to say, good on you for noticing her, sharing about it here, and seriously contemplating helping directly, and I hope it all works out.

Backpacking Dad said...

I think the only reason to not stop is to ask her for money.

Anonymous said...

Stop once and you may find yourself beholden, especially if this is an oft-traveled route. Will she become your friend? Will you become her sponsor? After the first visit, and once she knows you and your minivan--and your kids--when again and how often will you stop? When it's hot and you should? When it's cold and you must? After you are known to one another then what obligation will there be?

Sayre said...

Perhaps if you just point her out to your organization, some one with some experience could approach her. Helping her doesn't always mean being the one to do it - sometimes it just means getting her to the attention of people who CAN do something about it.

I would not approach with the children though. You don't know why she's there, if she might be mentally unstable or violent. There may be a very good reason she's out there in the boonies alone and not with the main population.

Lora said...

I've found in all my years of social work and do goodery that all homeless people need clean socks.

They aren't worked into most budgets, and they get really gross really fast.

So many break the ice with a bag of 6 or 8 pairs of clean socks? The kids don't have to be there for that, and you can test the waters before getting them involved

Anonymous said...

After being involved with the food pantry and encountering many homeless, I wouldn't suggest just stopping with the kids. There is quite a bit of mental illness affecting the homeless ... not that I think you would be in danger, but perhaps putting yourself in an awkward position or a scary position for the kids. Have some resources to share with this woman -- shelters, pantries, outreach programs etc that might be able to help her. She might want a friend, she might not.

Just a few thoughts for ya.

--bzybead

JoeinVegas said...

Yes, ask at the organization how best to do it. But definily not with the kids, it's not for teaching them about mental illness but for helping her.

Amanda said...

I have no answers, but I honor your question by wondering the same thing.

Liv said...

My kids and I had a similar discussion about a woman we saw this afternoon. I hope we see her again.

Leah said...

I agree. When we are able to and we see someone with a hungry sign or will work for food we go and get them something to eat. If we are at the grocery store we will go in and get a premade sandwich or a lunchable and fruit and a water. We will get fast food as a last resort. I always take my 8 year old daughter with me, it's important for her to learn. I give them the food and say God bless you and leave. I did it with my oldest daughter and now my youngest, it is such a valuable lesson for them.

SUEB0B said...

I get you on the not doing it to teach the kids a lesson. People can feel when they are being used, and it isn't a pleasant feeling.

Momomatic said...

So well said.

best florida beaches said...

There is quite a bit of mental illness affecting the homeless ... not that I think you would be in danger, but perhaps putting yourself in an awkward position or a scary position for the kids.

Thanks.