A Modern Life

While standing at the bus stop on the way to work this morning, I saw a trendy looking Asian woman in her 30s; she was wearing a distressed leather jacket (Gap), wheat coloured casual linen or cotton trousers (Banana Republic), okay shoes (Keens or something missing laces), tiny rhombahedral eye glasses (Oliver Peoples from Eyes on Burrard), and a precision razor cut (expensive and great looking – either she had perfectly cooperative hair or it had just been blow dried). This was a well dressed (not clean, but not dirty) young woman.

She looked, to me, like a scenester, a broadcaster or a graphic designer or a technical writer, out for a walk to Starbucks or on her way to an opening or a reading or a sushi dinner with friends, so I was surprised to see her approaching and speaking to everyone on the street.

She stood facing me, hands in pockets, humbly asking for change. I looked deep in her eyes and found it in myself to say “Sorry not today.” She looked deep in my eyes and asked again, and I repeated myself, steely but heartless. She said, “I may not see you another day,” and I said, “You may,” as she turned to speak with someone else.

What I really wanted to say was, “How did you get down here?” How do you go from eating in trendy restaurants and attending openings at hip art galleries to hanging out on the streets of the Downtown Eastside begging for change? She didn’t appear to be strung out, so what happened? Was it credit card debt (over consumption) and losing a job? Was it gambling debt? Was it just never finding a life worth keeping? Exactly how far away from the street does one have to be to stay off the streets?

I am reluctant to give money, but I have in the past, and there will likely be occasions when I’ll give money again. When I got on the bus I could still see her across the street, and I almost opened the bus window and threw some money out to her. But I did not, because I was afraid that giving money to her would do more harm than good.

She is stuck in my head as a failure to help. I have been known to buy food for these people. I take them into the Chinese bakery and I ask them what they want to eat and I buy if for them. I do it even though the clerks look at me as though I were crazy.

I have tried, in my small way, to help others, and I feel a bit guilty that I did not help her. I could have helped her in some way, given her my lunch or something. Anything. Anything would have helped.

I have so much, and I am able to throw so much away. I resolve that if I see her again (and there will be other sitings
if she stays around here), I’ll give her something to eat. I may not ever give money, but there is plenty of food, and food is only thing that I can give without hesitation. There is no harm in giving food. I give when I remember.

~ by thiscassandra on Thursday 6 July 2006.

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