Monday, July 06, 2009

Actions Speak Louder ...

I had to wait outside the shop. One step up keeps me out. We were having a lovely Sunday, strolling through Philosopher's Walk, along Church Street, eating a hot dog in Cawthra Park. It was all good. On our way up Yonge Street, heading home, I noticed a store window full of British goods. We're having tea with Belinda and Susan in a couple of weeks and there was something there I thought they'd each like. So Joe went in to shop while I waited outside. Don't lecture me about not shopping where I can't get in - I know, I know, but sometimes I'm just not feeling protesty.

As I waited I noticed a young man, maybe all of 18. He was folded up and sitting on the hard concrete of the sidewalk against a store maybe three or four up. It was a warm day but he was wearing a hoodie which was pulled up over a baseball cap. His face was filthy, his hands looked like they hadn't made friends with soap for a very long time. He held out a cardboard coffee cup asking, always politely, for help. Most people ignored him, but one or two actually kicked out at him. He didn't react to the violence, he accepted it as one accepts a friend often seen.

He noticed me and smiled. I smiled back.

Joe came out of the store with all the stuff he'd picked up. I asked him to give me a toonie and when I rolled by the young fellow was looking down. Like he didn't want to catch my eye. Like my friendliness earlier embarrassed him. His cup was down and I couldn't reach to throw the coin. I said, 'Hey, lift the cup up so I can get at it.' He looked up shocked and raised the cup, I tossed the coin.

He looked directly into my eyes and said in a quiet gentle voice, 'Thank You.' His eyes, the colour of a fresh bruise, were wet. I simply said, 'You take care of yourself, hear?' He nodded. It was the briefest of interactions.

I rolled on and at the corner I waited, Joe beside me, at the light. The man next to me, with fury in his voice said, 'You shouldn't give him money, you'll only encourage him.'

'Mister,' I said, 'that was exactly my intent.'


Kate said...

Wow. Very powerful indeed! Good for you!

Out of curiousity how much is a toonie?


Belinda said...

It would be very illuminating and saddening to take up a spot on the street for a day.

As for tea, now I am counting down the days! :)

Kate, a toonie is two dollars and is silver with a bronze middle, a little like the British 2 pound coin.

CJ said...

Good for you, Dave!

What I don't understand is the hostility and violence from others.

Sadly, a lot of foster youth that age end up on the streets.

FridaWrites said...

When I traveled a lot a couple of years ago, there were often a lot of homeless people in the busy cities I was in. Several times I gave food or a cold soda to them. I can't understand the violence--that just hurts. Literally kicking people who are already down! I had hoped in this economy more people were realizing that this could happen to anyone.

rickismom said...

I don't know what is the matter with people. Here there are lots of beggers, but no one would hurt them. And yes, some are only pretending... but if they beg when they don't need, they are also sick in a way....

Rachel said...

We can't possibly know what that kid's life is like and I'm appalled that people actually acted out violently towards him. My feeling is... my issue shouldn't be with what he does with the money once it leaves my hand, but with my willingness to help people who need it. Give with a pure heart and you'll never be disappointed. I feel sorry for those people who are so angry and offended, living in their little "it will never happen to me" box.

Eileen said...

someone's daughter, someone's son. I hope that should any of mine have the misfortune to be in this situation, there's a Dave around. Thanks for showing this boy some humanity.

Unknown said...

Hello Dave,

Your blog is lovely - inspirational, and full of wisdom, and warmth, written with curiosity and a sharp, clear observation of how wonderful the small things of this world can be. It says a lot of the things I hope I can say, in my own words & my own time, to the people around me.

I'm so used to reading rightly furious blogs about the unfairness of things in our society - feminist blogs, blogs about race, religion, disability, being trans - and so used to getting worked up, & sad, & wondering how much I can do, that I always save your blog for the last because it is the best of reminders that things can be changed.

Thank you so much!