The sun is setting and the temperature is dropping outside. Here in Western Washington we are expecting 2 storm fronts to hit us within the next few days bringing record snow levels with it. This after a weekend of snowing. I started the week on a high. It’s beautiful outside, I ran a half marathon in the snow that I’m somewhat proud of, there is a wonderous smelling soup stewing on the stove and I made it to work without unintentionally spinning down the road. I end this monday ashamed of myself though.
We were released from work early, so I headed to the grocery store for a couple quick ingredients to make that wonderous smelling soup. I parked carefully still scared from my spinout last winter. The news reports over two dozen weather related accidents this year and the weather simply scares me. After I got out of my car, I saw what I initially thought was one guy holding a sign and a mountain of stuff on his back. Turns out the “mountain” included another man standing next to him. In the few moments it took to realise this I realized that they were both probably homeless men and both would most likely be out in the rough elements that make up this weeks weather.
I thought about how cold I was during the 2nd half of my run on Saturday. 1.5 hours in snowy weather that I had hoped would hold off a few hours longer than it actually did. I thought of my friend Carol, who ran with me using hot hands in any place she was able to put it. I thought of the other friend who ran us who thought she might have narrowly missed frostbite and I thought of the situation of these two guys. I’m ashamed to admit I looked away. I am ashamed to admit that I choose not to go to the store they stood in front of that I wanted to go to because I didn’t want to walk past this with the few groceries I had, but was unwilling to share. I justified it by saying that my income is still slim enough that I really shouldn’t give what I can’t actually afford to share because it should go into my savings. But I arrived at home and realized that one of the stops I made in between the first and next time I avoided eye contact with these gentlemen I also stopped to pull some cash to send a friend as a gift. Because my life has been so fortunate and theirs have not. I justified it by saying I was scared. Two older men begging on the street and I was a young woman alone.
Why didn’t I have the same fear when the young black man pushed his window washing services on me yesterday at the Gas Station? He was most likely stronger and definitely more angry than either of these men appeared and yet these were the ones that I feared. It’s dark now and I can’t see my backyard. It’s approximately 36 degrees outside and my soup is bubbling away warmly behind me and I wonder what these two guys are doing to stay warm. Have they eaten today? What stopped me from at least giving them gift cards for Panda Express? Or the loaf of bread in my bag? It’s easy to fool yourself into thinking that homelessness and hardships are found in other areas. That you’ve isolated yourself in this bubble that hides many of the troubles of the world and then reality hits you.