Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Day-22 Even Homeless People Get Lucky Sometimes

Every morning I get a chance to watch the news. Recently I say a segment that introduced a new caricature to the T.V. show Sesame Street. I can't remember her name. I think it might have been "Lola". I'll just call her Lola. Anyway, Lola was a sweet muppet. She found her way to Sesame Street because she was raised in a poor household that was having problems getting food. Lola felt she needed to talk about it to other kids her age. Personally, I like this idea. But there was one point in the interview where something from Lola's friend (a producer of the show) said something that stuck out to me. It was something like this: "people in the food lines don't want to be seen by our cameras". She also went on to say that the reason they don't want to be seen is because they are embarrassed. This all makes sense to me.

There are two kinds of homeless people (in my opinion). The kind that don't want you to know and do everything they can to hide it; and the kind that do want you to know and can't stop boasting about it. I think alot of those people are actually bums looking for the handouts and public sympathy. This is just my opinion....... don't get mad, please.

Me, I'm the first kind of homeless person. I try to keep it to myself. However, when needed, I have mentioned it.

Now, you're probably thinking "Well, if that where true he wouldn't be blogging his life". The truth is that I have no idea why I'm doing this. I might have several reasons. One thing I did know before I started doing this was that I needed to be real. No made up stories. No lies (typically I don't lie anyways. But I'm the king of avoiding things. "Where do you live?" "Oh, just down the street"). I have to be as honest and open about who I am and what I do day to day as a homeless person as possible. Even the bad parts! If I can't do that for you (the reader) what good am I to you or to myself?

I'm going to tell you two stories now. I'll try to make then quick.

First story:
A little over a year ago I got off a bus in Portland, Maine. I had my bag and nothing else. Once again I was homeless. I knew no one and had no idea what was going to happen. This is usually how I step into a new place. Portland, Maine is a very homeless friendly place (as I've stated in the past). And with some hard work and determination it didn't take me long before I was working full time (call center) and had my own place, an efficiency apartment.

I'm my heart I knew it was time to do something big. I never sought it out but I was keeping an open eye.

One day I was working and on break. Outside I saw a co-worker talking on her phone. She and I where both pretty new and we had not talked much to each other at all. I will not use her real name - I'll just call her "D". D was on the phone and I could tell she was very upset.  After she hung up I walked over and asked her if she was OK. This was our first real conversation. I don't think she knew my name. D told me that she and her daughter had recently wound up living with her family. And she was stressed because her living conditions were bad. I never asked how bad but I could tell she was almost in tears. That night I went home and thought about it. The next day I saw D. I walked over and asked if she would like to take my apartment for a while. LOL, I'll never forget the look on her face. Of course she couldn't take me seriously. The next few days I spent trying to convince her I was serious. I constantly wrote notes that said things like "the location is great for you, everything you need is near by", "the rent is paid three months ahead" (and it was), "I'm not crazy (and I'm not)", "I'll never bother you there (and I never did), "it will be all yours" and balled them and tossed them into her work area. LOL!

Finally, I got her to agree to come over and see the place. Standing inside my apartment she asked me "Is this for real?" I said back "if you drop your bag right now I'll give you the keys". I think what made her say yes was the bathtub. I think she had no way to wash her child. No one gets that excited over a bathtub. Anyway, she said yes. Then something happened - complete turn. She told me her story.

As it turns out, there was a man in her life. The father of her little girl who I will call "LG". About 3 months prior to that moment in my apartment, he had died. It was a tragic accident. He wound up drowning in a hot tub. This info rocked my world. D had asked me already several times what I would be doing for a place to stay. I told her a was going to stay at a friend's house. And for three weeks I slept on his floor. If he had not let me do that I would  have truly been homeless. But for D and LG I know in my heart this was a small price to pay. D also offered to pay me money several times. I never accepted it. To me, what I was doing was so big and special I never wanted to tarnish it. About three weeks later I was back into my place. D had moved out of her parents place and into a place of her own. She also was enrolled in school.

I met her little girls one time. She was about a year old. She will probably never know me or what I did for her and her mom and that's OK. But from time to time I think about the two of them and I can't help but wonder if I made the world just a little better. Was the little girl's path made a little brighter by me? God, I hope so! I don't talk much too D. We will always be friends of course and I know in her heart there is a special place for me.

Some of my friends thought I was crazy. They said "why would you lower yourself for a girl you hardly know?" My response was "sometimes to lift someone up, you have got to pull yourself down". I had no idea what D would do with the apartment I gave her. My gut just told me to do it. My gut was right!

For the record: this is the second time I have ever told this story in full. Bragging only tarnishes a good deed.

Now, the next story.
I was at my spot last night sleeping. I never told you where this spot was because for me to be there I have to trespass. That is against the law. I feel bad for doing it of course, but I felt safe there. When push comes to shove I'll pick my safety for the night over jail time. As long as I know that I'm at least trying to make it off the streets. This was the kind of spot where virtually anyone can have access to and the last thing I want is for a bunch of homeless people saying "that's a good idea" and get into trouble. I will say this though, it was a spot where I felt safe. It was all the things I look for in a spot. It was quiet, in my area, easy to get to, dark, and I had a large window of time to sleep.

So, I was there, sleeping, when around 11:30 I heard the door open. Scared, I balled up hoping to not be seen. There I was looking up and balled up like a little baby when I heard footsteps approaching me. I hoped it would stop. I thought to myself, "it's just someone that forgot something. They will not find me. Just stay quiet. Then I saw his face. He jumped back out of view shouting the name "Jesus Christ"! Then he went quiet. I could tell he was scared. So was I! It was very quiet.

Now, I'm going to tell you how the conversation went. But, please don't quote me on this. It all happened so fast. Both of us had our adrenalin rushing. I won't get it word for word and that's OK because I think it's the meaning you will understand.

ME - first, still balled up: Mister, I know this is wrong.
HIM - still out of view: You're trespassing!
ME: I understand that and I'm sorry!
HIM: There is a park across the street!
ME: Mister, I know that!
Me, Mister: (this part I know I said) I'm going to ask you to do something here that you probably normally wouldn't do. I'm going to ask that you let me go. Let me get my stuff and leave without calling the cops. From one human being to another you will never see me again. (I meant every word of that).
HIM: You will just get your stuff and go?
ME: Yes.
HIM: Go!

And I did!! Fast!
He was gone when I left so I didn't see his face again. But sitting across the street in the park I saw him drive by to make sure I was there.

I wouldn't have hurt him. And truth be told, I would have waited there until the cops arrived. I accept responsibility for what I did. I was in the wrong. I wish I could tell you I won't be trespassing tonight at another spot...... but I will be.

Last night made me think a lot about D! Was this a "what goes around comes around" sort of thing? This man went against the grain. And had me pinned! I can afford time in jail, I suppose. Some food. Some sleep. But the fact of the matter is that eventually I would be out. And still,  homeless. I think what got to him was my voice. I think what he heard in me was seriousness, and sincerity. I would have earned his respect by staying there and waiting for the cops. And that would have counted for something. But he let me go. I think he just knew somehow that I was trying to make it. I think he heard it in my voice and decided I was worth the chance.

I know I have to make this up. I have to "pay it forward". I have to pay for this crime. Not because I got caught (I'm going to trespass tonight) but because it is wrong. I know I have to do something big someday. To keep myself balanced.

What this man gave me was a chance to do something right and good. He also gave me the power to do it in my own way. I only hope I won't let him down. I hope I can pull a D.

Homeless tip:
Never invite another homeless person into your spot. As much as I'd love to say "hey man, I know a better place! Come check this out," I know that will only lead to trouble.

Every time I leave a spot I clean up my stuff. I do this because I don't want anyone to know I was there. I check and check and check to make sure that my time there is erased completely. I leave nothing behind.

When you invite another homeless person into your spot you basically have to tell him (her) the house rules. And watch over them. Now you have to double check they didn't leave anything behind.
I'd set some rules like this :
1) Don't go there before 10:00 pm!
2) Don't smoke!
3) Don't tell anyone!
4) Be gone by 5:20 am!
5) pick up your stuff

Simple, however I can promise you that within two weeks you have this:
You show up at 10:00 pm on the dot and there are already 3 other people there. They are all drinking and smoking. Its like a little homeless party. The place is trashed with spilled beer and ash. The friend you told first doesn't know what to say to you. No one is listening to you. It smells, and you knows that not just a cigarette they are smoking. Now you see flashing lights. Now you are all arrested and going to jail. You lost the spot.

Never invite anyone into your spot. Its one thing for you to get into trouble on your own. But its another for you to get into trouble because of a bunch of other homeless people!

Thank you for reading my post today. It means a lot.

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