I believe Hilary Clinton said "It takes a village to raise a child." Along those same lines, wasn't Joe Cocker right when he sang "I get by with a little help from my friends"? Yet what do you do when the world we are living in has become so cynical and skeptical that finding the little things to do to help gets lost in the shuffle?
For the past week or so there has been a new girl hanging on the block that my store is on, with a sign, begging for money. Her sign says something like "Homeless, 4 kids, please help." I haven't given her any money, but I have noticed her getting more and more ragged as the days ware on. She looks far too young to have 4 kids, has long red hair and just looks extremely sad.
She came into my work today and bought a small coffee. I noticed that her fingers were filthy but upon a longer glance I saw that they weren't just dirty, but they were covered in Cheeto dust. You know, when you eat Cheetos and your fingers get that nasty orange dust all over them and it takes a good lick and then a good wash to get them clean? I happened to look into her bag and she had two large bags of Cheetos with her. I think that may be all she has eaten in several days.
I gave her the coffee and watched her walk over to the cream and sugar. She was literally falling asleep standing up. Her knees would buckle, her head would bob, her hands would droop from the sugar. It took her a good 5 minutes to get her coffee sweetened and out the door. She came back near close and I was able to call our off-duty officer down to talk to this girl. She just looks like she needs a good sleep, a real meal and perhaps a hug.
The officer told me afterward that the girl said she was on Methadone (a drug used to take people off heroine and cocaine), her kids are in foster care, shes staying at a shelter but can't get in there until 8pm. She's fine, I kept hearing her say. The officer told her that if she needs anything, people are around to help. She offered to buy the girl some decent food, and perhaps take her to a shelter. "No no. I'm fine." was her response. She may be a whore as well, she had money falling on the floor, underwear and lube and condoms in her bag. And sadly, we've all heard that it's an easy way to make a buck
It breaks my heart. I don't think anyone wants to wind up in a situation like that. I think people want to be happy and healthy and successful in their own way. But bad people happen (from bad parents, I believe), drugs and alcohol can quickly take over a life, mistakes can snowball into something you never saw coming. But what I get so focused on is the fact that once you are in that deep dark hole, there really seems no way out.
And whats worse is that there are so many people out there who say "Their problems aren't my problems. I don't care." People who are better of tend to question the story, not give change because we don't know what it will go to, walk by without a second glance. I do it. I question the sign and whether they really are homeless or just lazy. But what if this girl's story is true? What if this girl really has kids in foster care, is really trying to get off drugs, is trying to better herself in the only way she knows how? And has no one to lean on. That is what makes me so sad. She could be all alone, in a harsh world, with no guidance to get out of the dark life she is in.
She looked exhausted. I was tired for her. I wonder where she came from. Did her mother love her unconditionally like mine did? How did she have 4 kids so young? Did she go to school? These are all questions I wonder about the people that wander the streets of downtown. They all have a past, had to have come from somewhere. What happened that had them wind up with a sign begging for money, a sorrowful look in their eyes, and very little motivation to take control of their life?
I wish I knew the answers. I wish there was a better program than 24 hours in detox and then back out on the street. I wish we put more money into programs to better the community rather than a new sports stadium. If it really does take a village, I wish we had a tighter community to help raise each other to be good human beings. I wish...