10.14.2010

The Face of the Homeless

Do you ever have something that is bothering you, and for some reason you can't let it go? I get bothered a lot by the way our world is right now and how many people are really suffering. Homes have been lost to foreclosure, oops the big banks didn't read the documents, just signed the papers and families were forced from their homes. There is a little shopping center by my house. The bank I go to is there, Target, a Bristol Farms, etc. It is close by, so I'm always over that way. For years, and I've lost count, there has been this neatly dressed woman that you would never know was homeless, until you noticed her neatly packed bags in her wagon. She always holds her head up eye, never makes eye contact as she proceeds with the day. Often times if I run into Bristol Farms she is sitting at one of the tables with a cup of coffee. I wrote this story about her for the Plaza Review newspaper awhile back. It's kind of long so please know I don't expect you to read it. But I'll finish my own story at the bottom. . .

"HOPE"

"I sit at the red light, and I see her again. I had just left the bank to make a deposit before going to work. The bank is in a little shopping center near my house, the “Los Altos” area of Long Beach. I’ve seen this woman many times over the past few years. As I watch her cross the street in front of me, I wonder how she became homeless. She holds her head up high. Her appearance is immaculate! You would never suspect she was homeless except for the wagon she pulls. In it she has, what I’m guessing is her life. It’s packed neatly in a nice suitcase with a few other odds and ends. She has a little sheltie dog that is with her and wearing a little pink doggie jacket to keep her warm. She use to have two dogs, and I always feel bad knowing that something happened to the other one, meaning these dogs are her only family. There is a small local library in this neighborhood where the woman often goes and gets books to read in a small area, similar to a park by Bristol Farms. I see her at different times sitting outside of Bristol Farms with her dog, drinking coffee and reading. She is a proud woman, you can tell. Brande and I always would like to give her money, but are afraid as we wouldn’t want to offend her or make her feel less a person. Where does she sleep at night? Where does she bathe to look so neat and proud each day? This world of ours has put a different face on the people that have become homeless in today’s world. Why am I writing about this woman? She is always a reminder to me of “positivity” as she proudly walks down the street with her head held high. You can just tell that she takes life a day at a time with a positive attitude.

I've written about my mom before, and how her life wasn't always easy. She was born in Lubbock, Texas and lived there as a young child. Her life was simple, filled with challenges, and her family didn't have much. But she never looked back at her childhood negatively. As a young teenager, her family moved to Temple, Texas. Things were a little bit better for awhile. Her mom worked as a waitress and her dad drove and oil truck. But, like many things in life, stuff happens. Her dad committed suicide when my mom was fifteen and her mom died of breast cancer a few years later. My mom ended up moving to CA and marrying my dad. My life growing up was pretty simple. My dad worked for Edison, my mom worked part time for awhile when my sister and I were teenagers. But the one thing I always, always remember about my mom was that she was such a positive person! Living through everything she did, including the Depression, she was a positive person. As a child she would sing all the time, stupid little songs. When I was a kid, my mom always sang the song, "High Hopes", think Frank Sinatra recorded it. Never did a day go by while growing up that she wasn't singing happy, positive little songs. My mom stayed positive her entire life, even right up to the time she died. Never complaining about her pain, she just accepted life. Her love of music was passed on to me, and I try to pass that on to Riley & Morgan as well. Music and those that perform and write it is the very best dose of positivity I could ever ask for. I'm a big fan of American Idol. There, I admitted it. I like it obviously because of the music. But also love to watch it because it is about young people working as “positively” as they can to make their dreams come true! As I watched ldol the other night, I was really thrilled to see Danny Gokey come back and perform his new song. For us "Idol" fans, I think you remember how Danny had lost his wife at a young age. But instead of choosing to let life pass him by, he turned it all around. His positivity took him on a new path in life. And his new song, “My Best Days Are Ahead”, is so uplifting and positive!

There is no doubt that life is tough right now. But if you get up each morning and swallow a good sized dose of positivity, you just might feel a whole lot better. And I think I will muster up some courage and positively walk over to the woman and her little dog and just smile and hand her an envelope with some money and say, “this is for you”. Sometimes just knowing that people care about you can make the biggest difference in others lives. Maybe I’ll now go see if I can download “High Hopes” on to my computer."

So, that is my little story. This past week-end, we had been really, really busy at Country Roads. So, I was going to treat myself to some sushi at Bristol Farms. Something I don't do as I use to in "the olden days" before the you know what hit the fan. As I was driving home from work, I kept trying to figure out a way I could give this woman some money. I wanted to give her a $100 bill, but I was nervous to do it. I didn't know how to approach her, I didn't want to insult her. Do you know what I mean? Her other little dog is now gone too, which made me feel even worse! So sadly, I wasn't able to do give her the money and beat myself up the rest of the week-end for not doing it. I was talking to Brande the next night about it, because she too has noticed this woman. I told her now her only dog is gone, and I had felt so bad for not being able to give this woman the money. Brande suggested maybe I stick the money in an envelope and just set it down on the table she is at, and just smile and walk away. My "hopes" are that I still can do this. I'm one of these people that really struggle with all those that are standing on freeway off ramps or approach you for money. Sure, some may be a scam, but how about the ones that aren't? Wouldn't the world be a little bit better if we all took the time to appreciate what we DO have and open our hearts to those that have so little? I still have HOPE for that day to come, and to come soon!

10 comments:

Kate said...

So much of this story breaks my heart as this is a hurting world we live in. Sue you will know when the right time is. I adopt families every year from the local school by our home I have done this for the past seventeen years. The office ladies let me do it anoym so that it will not bother the family. It makes my heart feel so good inside. I know you will find a way to help this proud woman. You are a precious soul Sue and I am honored that you are my friend.

Take care
Kate

Garden Antqs Vintage said...

What a great story and yes I did read it to the end. It really reminds me of a Lifetime movie that came on where the woman became homeless because her husband left her and she had not job, and how she turned into something positive. It does make you wonder what has happened to this woman. If you put the money in an envelope and just walk away she may not take it and then someone else will enjoy her gift. Can you maybe start talking to her first and build up a friendship and maybe find out more about her. As you do this maybe she'll feel more confident to take a gift from you, just a thought. Please keep us posted.

Boogieboard Cottage said...

That is so kind of you to want to help this woman. You really have a very big heart for people and it shows. I wonder what this womans particular story is? I wonder where she came from and how she became homeless? These days homelessness can happen to just about anyone I suppose. I think that someday, you'll be able to help her out when the timing is right. I would be nervous too, to walk up to someone and hand them money. Sometimes, it just needs to be the right day and the right time. Sometimes people like her who have no one to talk to might appreciate someone striking up a kind friendly "small talk" conversation with them for starters. You'll know when the timing is right.

Every Friday night at my church, Calvary Chapel Beachside in Huntington Beach, my family works in the soup kitchen feeding the homeless. I've seen how feeding the homeless makes my foster kids receive joy from giving. Our church turns our little cafe fellowship area into a big soup kitchen. Dozens of people from Calvary volunteer to prepare, cook, serve and clean up every Friday. We pass out flyers to all of the homeless people we can find and every Friday, we get a long, long line of people to feed. This is also where Charles and I work and eat on Thanksgiving. And at Christmas time we get to hand out warm clothes and blankets as well at the soup kitchen. It's been a blessing. Take care, Mary :O)

Annie Louise said...

Your entire story is so touching. Sometimes we are so busy running here and there that we don't stop and notice what is really important in life. It seems that becoming homeless is becoming more and more prevalent in our society, there but for the grace of God go I. I believe everything happens for a reason. The perfect timing for your kindness will most likely happen before you even realize it. How kind of you to take notice and attempt to do something for this individual. Our family has made and given blankets to families/individuals in need of just a little kindness. One never knows what kind of an impact doing this has on another life, however, one does feel the impact it has on their life. Blessings to you and your family, and thank you for your wonderful post and reminder about life.
Jeanette

Anonymous said...

Your story is so sweet and sad. Reminds me of a woman in Austin in the 50s and 60s that used to ride her bicycle everywhere. She was a tall, skinny woman and the sun took its toll on her skin over the years. We would see her all over town. I was ten or so when I first realized and we talked about her with our Mom. My Mom said that she sold magazine subscriptions but we were never approached. But I felt sad for her on the hottest and coldest of days.
I hope that you are able to make this gift to this woman. I have no idea how you can accomplish the gift giving, but my prayers are with you as you find the right moment.
God Bless You for your caring soul.
And I would love to hear "the rest of the story".
Jackie in Texas

afistfullofweeds* said...

Hi Sue! I can't help but feel a little anxious about the woman. I think I would invite her for lunch or maybe Thanksgiving dinner...just something. Please don't wait too long..I worry she may disappear like her dogs did. Like Kate, I have adopted a child from my sons school for Christmas gifts. It has been such a reward for me in a time when there are so few! Bless You Sue! Rhonda

The Boston Lady said...

Sue, what a heartfelt story. This woman sounds like she is very proud of herself, yet I don't think she would mind a helping hand from a good citizen. It makes me sad that she has lost both of her canine companions. Perhaps, if you engaged her in conversation and offered to help her find a rescue dog as a new companion she would be more open to accepting that type of help. Maybe even a gift card to the Bristol Farms store that she is near. You have a big heart. I look forward to hearing the next chapter. Your article for the paper was great. Ann

The Boston Lady said...

I also meant to add that I love American Idol for exactly the same reasons you seem to. Young undiscovered talent getting a shot at their dream. I always root for the underdog! Ann

Susy said...

Hi. I found you from Vintage Inspiration Friday. I love your heart for the homeless woman. Some times they have an opportunity to go into housing, but refuse to because they can't take their pets. Perfectly understandable.

Glad I found your blog. I'll be back.

Carla Ramirez said...

Hi sue, I love your blog post about this homeless woman! I live in the same part of long beach an have seen this woman for yours. She is a b total enigma and completely fascinating to me too. She is quite admirable, yes I completely agree with what u say about how she is a great reminder of positivity. She seems old but so resilient and determined. She is amazing. I used to see her all the time at the library I used to go to a lot in past years with my daughter to help her with homework. I too felt compelled to give her money and help her out in some way but found it so so hard to approach her. What I ended up deciding to do was to leave a small bag like a brown paper lunch bag with a lunch and some money with a note for her right on top of her wagon while she was inside the library reading!!