Friday, February 7, 2014

Candid Thoughts: Six Times

     Today we were out running errands when we stopped at a busy intersection. Walking along the sidewalk was an old man, homeless and holding a cardboard sign that stated so. A few people would signal him over and give him some pocket change. Traffic started moving before he was even close enough to us for me to pass him anything, and we drove away. It got me thinking back to when I first encountered poverty, when I first really realized that not everyone has a roof over their heads or food to eat or clean water to drink or bathe in. 

     I grew up in a military family. My dad and my moms second husband were both in the Marine Corps, and after she remarried, we moved out to Oklahoma City for a while. I was 9, very curious and also very naive. I had always assumed that everyone lived the way that I did, or better. Never once did I even consider that some people had nothing. Sure, everyone gets the "There are starving people who would eat that in a heartbeat" speech when we don't want to eat our brussels sprouts, but I never batted an eyelash at the thought. It wasn't a lack of care but a lack of that "Aha!" moment, that realization of the true state of the world.

     As we drove through our new city, which was larger and busier than I had ever seen before, my face was glued against the glass in wonder and awe. There were malls and Chuck E. Cheeses and and every type of fast food restaurant you could imagine. There were giant Billboards and cacti and red clay earthy patches all around. I was fascinated. As we drove under a particularly large overpass, though, I was startled. Lining from edge to edge along the sides, pressed against the concrete were possible hundreds of people, filthy and with torn clothes, mostly Hispanic in ethnicity. They stared at every car as it passed, which I know now was a defeated stare hoping for change or partially eaten food scraps to be thrown from the passing vehicles. There were men older than I thought could exist and young children who couldn't possibly even be walking yet. It was shocking, confusing, and mind-blowing.

     I remember asking my mom why all those people were there. When she explained that they had no homes, no jobs, and no food, it took me a while to truly grasp what that meant. It took me driving under these overpasses every day on my way to school and beginning to recognize faces to understand... oh my God, these people don't have anything. The image of those people huddled together looking lost and defeated has never ever left my mind.

     Recently, I read something that said that there are so many empty homes in America that each homeless person in the whole country could own six. That means there are six times as many homes as there are people without a home. That saddens, confuses, and angers me all at the same time. There are houses that those people I saw could be occupying, but they are being left to die. They can't get a job because they can't buy clothes, which they can't do because they can't get a job. It's a vicious cycle, and I desperately hope that someone can come up with a way to fix it and soon.

     Just some food for thought, and some rambling to let out some of my reflections of the day.


1 comment:

  1. Hi Gabby. It's always been hard for me to understand how a country as rich as ours could allow people to exist in conditions such as those. It's mind boggling and it's sad. I have given change and when I can dollars many times to people holding up a similar sign, but the small amount I can give doesn't even put a dent in the problem. I only wish our government would do more.