Out in the cold

snow-falling-gif

 

“You can present the material, but you can’t make me care.”
― Bill Watterson

Just another winter’s day, just another icy commute in the dark. You can hear the shuffling of footsteps on the frozen ground. No one speaks, no one smiles, we all just keep moving..

People waking to and fro, many in a hurry, most of them with the same look; that same glazed over gaze which extends beyond the person right next to them as if the other person, the fellow human is not there at all. It is a tunnel vision of sorts, it could be more of a selective vision. It is an acquired ability. We are not born with it; this talent for ignoring the obvious.

 

It comes out of necessity and takes practice.  In this rapidly changing world, many of us are getting a lot of practice. If you live in a large urban area you probably know what I mean…

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I know you’ve seen them: Their swelling number are almost impossible to ignore. The tents and blue tarps under bridges, the huddled sleeping figures in crowded doorways.  It’s not just in my city or yours, it’s everywhere.

And it scares the hell out of me. And I shiver. From the cold or that icy fear or both I don’t know.

Last night in my city of Portland, Oregon a newborn baby died possibly from exposure, sitting in its homeless mothers arms. This would be the 5th person to die from the cold in the last 2 weeks here.

 

homeless-child-mother-snow

What kind of people are we? We forsake our most vulnerable citizens. It is a sickness I think this indifference. One of ills of our society and one that just seems to be growing.

We are told those less unfortunate deserve their fate. It is easy to want to believe that. That means if I work hard and toe the line and do what I am told. I too won’t be one of those less unfortunate ones, it is tempting to want to believe this; it feels safer.

At least I think it does…

I think of all the people in the US who have just lost their health insurance. Again I could be indifferent here, I have mine. To me, seeing a doctor is not a luxury…yet.

I have a warm home and enough food to eat.

Why should I worry about these strangers? Many of them are probably drug addled or mentally ill. They probably want to be out here. They like living on the fringes of society. No bills , no responsibilities. Not my problem… Right?

funny-sign-man-hookers

The man at the bus stop with the unkempt beard and the wild eyes. He is hard not to notice; wrapped in a tattered blanket he is shouting obscenities at the sky.  My pulse quickens;  I am scared and I tiptoe past him hoping he doesn’t notice me, I walk down to the next stop.

Nothing is all black or white. But we are all human from the innocent babe to the wild man at the bus stop. We are all part of the same human family. I admit it is easier to care about the pretty, the untarnished, the salvageable.

homeless-man-face

 

I imagine the man with the wild eyes was that too once; pretty, untarnished, salvageable. Now he is just part of the wreckage left behind to lurk in the shadows, in the cold doorways, watching everyone look away…

Something to ponder on…

 

 

~nlm

 

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“The most terrifying fact about the universe is not that it is hostile but that it is indifferent, but if we can come to terms with this indifference, then our existence as a species can have genuine meaning. However vast the darkness, we must supply our own light.”
Stanley Kubrick

 

 

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6 thoughts on “Out in the cold

  1. There are no easy answers for this one . . . we see the gamut of homelessness here (the weather at least is warm) and while it’s difficult to look at, it’s even more difficult finding answers.

    Some want to be helped; some don’t; some want to work but who would hire them? Some don’t want to work. And yes, a good number have obvious psychological issues. Some pose a threat even as we feel for them.

    We like to think about the dignity of the human spirit . . . but often see the dark side of the human spirit. How can we reconcile the images we see when no two people can agree on what should be done?

    It’s a constant and ongoing debate here, and there are efforts and organizations to help, but in one instance, a lady we were helping would have none of it. We bought her food and dropped her off where we often see her; she had no interest in any of the “official” help. She just wanted to be left there.

    While said organizations help by providing free food and clothes and wellness checks, there is no possibility of forcing her to at least try and improve. Was she typical? I don’t know, but in speaking with social workers, it seems that’s not unusual.

    And yes, we see more every month. It’s easier for them here than where winter conditions are harsh. Colorado Springs has a fairly large population and churches and shelters open their doors during bad winter storms, but again . . . how do we move these people off the streets and into what we consider productive lives?

    I’m asking these questions not as a means of making excuses, but out of frustration; there are no easy answers, at least none I’ve heard of. So yes, we should be helping . . . no one I know has worked out how.

    Like

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