5/25/07

Of A Small Bagged Lunch

Wednesday night, in between Rav getting home from another long day at work - post maternity offender and my road trip with Cracky McCrackster, I needed to run out for a loaf of bread and a gallon of milk. As I was pulling out of the parking lot of the store and heading for home, I happened to see, sitting on a bench in front of an elementary school, a person. And next to that person, a cart.
Once again, there is nothing in the car. Besides the loaf of bread and the milk. This does not make for a practical "meal". I head home and quickly whip up a sandwich, grab a bottle of gatorade, a banana, some crackers, and some cookies and a paper towel. I place it all in a brown bag and head back out the door.

My error? I knew that Rav would not be pleased about what I was doing. So I didn't tell him. I just ran out the door stating I'll be back in a minute.

I pull in the school parking lot and he is still there. Tiny thing he is. Much like the tiny woman a few weeks ago at the shopping center.

I approach him & he appears to be sleeping. I say Excuse Me? as I approach him. He opens his eyes and sees what I have in my hands. I tell him that I have some food inside for him, if he's interested. He says, Yes, that'll be fine. And he pats the empty space on the bench next to him for me to sit the bag lunch down on. And I do.
I tell him that I saw him at the store just a few minutes ago. That I wanted to help him however I could. So I ran home really quick and made him a sandwich and gave him what food I did have. I apologized for it not being much as I hadn't been to the grocery store for awhile........(and then I felt so, so small. I wanted to grab both of my feet & stick them into my mouth). He looked at me, shocked and said You did? You ran home to make me the food? I just smiled and said Yes.

This time, I'm better prepared for questions. I ask him if he has a place to stay. He tells me that his money just ran out.
(Our state gives out motel vouchers to the homeless).
He says he did have a car that he was living in, but he lost his car & he couldn't afford the gas anymore.
I asked him about shelters.
He says that he has a hard time making it all the way into Wilmington in time to make it before they close their doors at 4:00 p.m.

On one hand, I felt terrible even asking these questions because I can offer him no solution.

He tells me how he has a niece that lives nearby, but she leads a crazy life. And then he says My problems are my problems. I don't want to bother people. I've got to make my way.
I nod my head. For I know to try to tell him otherwise is fruitless. The man is well into his 50's or 60's.

He asks me what religion I was brought up in. I tell him that I was raised Episcopalian. And that I haven't been to church in quite a long time. But I try to do the right things. If I feel something in my heart, I try to do it.
Then he looks at me in his slow, underwater movements and says Well, you worked it out with me today. I was here. You were over there and saw me.
Again, he's making me smile. This gentle, quiet man.
I said, I'm Tabitha, by the way.
He says, I'm William. If you see me around, you can call me William.
He tries to say my name and has a hard time.
I say, A lot of people just call me Tab.
He chuckles and says, T-A-B?. OK, Tab.

He then starts talking about how he tries to save his money so that he has a place to stay during the cold, winter months. And that he just does what he can when the weather is warmer.
I listen to what he is saying and take in the realities of his years....the tides that bring him in and push him back out.

We part ways and this time, I leave feeling a little better about the whole thing. Better than I did the last time. As best as I can feel, anyway. Leaving him there to sleep wherever he can.

I come home and fill Rav in. And he's pretty upset.
He's worried about me just walking up to someone who will become violent or pissed off at me for offering something.
He warns me of the dangers of what I am doing.
He understands that I want to help.
But again, fears for my safety.

I really don't know how to reconcile his sensibility and my desire to do something. After years of wanting and never doing.
On one hand, I feel like a teenager being told no to do something and saying The more you tell me no, the more I'm going to do it anyway.
I'm just naturally rebellious that way.
That too, is a genetic predisposition.

I apologized to him for leaving and not telling him where I was going. And I said, Next time, then. You're coming with me. Would that make you feel better?

And what I don't say, and maybe I should is that I'm of the mindset that these things happen for a reason. There was a reason that he was there and that I saw him.
And that, I just can't shake.

11 ripples in the pond:

Pippajo said...

Okay, first of all, I changed the settings on my blog back to normal. I should know by now never to try to change things by myself! I'm really sorry you were left out in the cold. I didn't omit you! Never! I'm just an idiot.

Secondly, this story is just so touching. I can understand why Rav was upset, but I also understand why you did it. You and your big heart.

I'm on my way to leave other comments since I'm way behind on reading your stuff.

thailandchani said...

I find myself hoping you will meet William again at some point. He sounds like an interesting guy.

It never ceases to amaze me when people in such dire situations will say, "I don't want to be a burden to anyone else. I've got to make my own way." That is just plain wrong. But, you're right, at his age, bringing another way of thinking to him might not have been worthwhile. It's deeply entrenched.

Rav's job is to bring that counterbalance to the surface, how to help but do it without bringing danger to yourself.

It's a valid point....


Peace,

~chani

Tabba said...

I agree, Chani. He seemed like such a gentle soul. And he probably is a little damaged - as we all are - but sweet and kind.

I do see Rav's point as a valid one. Completely. It's just trying to find the balance of my helping and his feeling comfortable.

Mary-LUE said...

Wow! I just got caught up on the last three posts. You've been busy!

I know this is a struggle, balancing what is safe with what you desire to do. I have a friend who is the same way. On at least one occasion she stopped to give someone a ride home. (It was an elderly person who it turns out was lost.)

Maybe... maybe these recent incidents are an indication of a direction your life is going, maybe in the benevolence field?

Rav said...

Sometimes things do happen for a reason. All to often I hear people ask, "why me"? "Why did he rob me". "Why did he rape me". I am not saying that I disagree with Tabba wanting to help people. God bless her for that. But all it takes is one person to decide that he wants more from this petite blonde in the Land Rover to tragically and horifically alter the lives of me, my wife, and our children. Some may think I am cold or unkind. Some may think I am jaded by what I see everyday. There are sick people in this world. Sick and scary. They do things for no other reason but to do them. They know what they are doing is wrong and they don't care. They don't care about any of us. And there are some people who have serious mental health issues, and just don't know what they are doing. Chances are, that if they cannot afford housing, or have run out of vouchers, then they probably are not medicated. The last thing anyone needs is the police at their door explaining that something terrible has happened. And I guarantee that it may not be today or tomorrow, but approaching people on the street, (particularly in the area we live)is certain to result in that very event. And yes I am a little bit cold, unkind, and jaded. I am also selfish and want to ensure that I get to spend the rest of my life with my warm, kind and content wife.

thailandchani said...

Rav, I don't think anyone considers you to be cold and unkind. Given the work you do, you see the worst any community has to offer. Your point is certainly valid about Tabba's safety.

Would you feel more comfortable if she did it with company, a friend or two with her?

Balancing this is difficult, of course, but it would be heartbreaking to see people stifle their natural inclinations to want to help ~ and there are so many people who need it.

Homelessness is a wide continuum with people hitting that point in their lives for a variety of reasons. It would be an injustice to paint them all with the same brush. This culture has a cruel streak when it comes to those who can not keep up with the rapid pace of produce-and-consume.

They deserve the same respect as all citizens.

Stay safe :)


~Chani

Oh, The Joys said...

I am more like Rav and K is like you, Tab.

I totally understand the fear Rav feels. It is born of protectiveness he feels for you and the family. Totally understandable.

Still, when I am at my most good, I recognize that even if something bad were to happen - even if the WORST happened, I would still be glad he was the kind of man he is.

xo,
OTJ

Tabba said...

Again, I want to thank you all for your insights. This has caused a bit of a flurry here and there in the Casa de Ravioli. And it was great to hear what you all had to say.

In regards to Mary-lue's comment...yes, I'm working on figuring out exactly where to go (career-wise) once I am finished with my degree. I know that I want to work at helping people/advocating/etc....it's just a matter of finding the right fit.

Denguy said...

I like that: "these things happen for a reason," very interesting.

Joker The Lurcher said...

i'm with rav on the safety thing - there are some scary people out there and they don't tend to wear a badge saying "i'm scary". and crack makes people more scary than anything i have ever seen. some of the violence i have come across at work that is crack-related has to be seen to be believed.

there is also the thing that you feeling you have to do this might be coming from somewhere inside you and it might not be entirely healthy for you to deal with it in this way. after all you can't make life ok for these folks, you can just apply a little bandaid.

my feeling would be to get involved in either a voluntary or paid way in working with street homeless people. that way you get protection and de-briefings when you need them and all the stuff that keeps us safe, both physically and more importantly mentally.

Tabba said...

Joker - I wish it were that simple. The only way I can explain it is that I have lived a life of feeling like helping and never doing. Everytime I would pass someone on the street who needed help, and kept on walking.....it would feel like a little piece inside died.
When I came across William, who is trying to live and he's here and I pass him regularly, I can't look the other way now. I feel a pull to do something. As I always have, but never acted on.