Wednesday, October 10, 2007

the art of apathy

"homeless and hungry". three words that infiltrate my selfish existence every morning. the man holding the sign which reads these words is also cold. perhaps there isn't enough room on his piece of cardboard to include that condition as well. the sight of him makes me feel sick as i suck down my chai latte and turn my radio down. it's almost as if the loud music is an insult to him, something i suddenly feel guilty for. as that guilt washes over me, i glance down at my wallet. without opening it, i know that the only thing in it is an unbroken hundred dollar bill. i absolutely could use it... but if i gave it away, would i miss it? what would he do with it? sympathy tells me to actually get out of my car and talk to him. but paranoia immediately follows and convinces me that i might wind up in a ditch or something. even with hundreds of cars passing by. deciding i needed more time to consider this, i continue on. i'm late for work anyway.

i consider myself to be a relatively bright individual, and yet even i have been down the road that leads to displacement. there are two things, however, that i possess that set me apart from those who end up holding these signs: first is the ability to create a hustle in times of need, and secondly, the love of a family who would never let this happen to me. after spending the past month complaining about what i don't have to furnish my home, i now find myself fantastically appreciative of my bed without a frame. my aesthetically-challenged refrigerator. the five coats that i flipped through this morning with disdain. my healthy child.

each time i see a person living on the streets, my gut knots up. i feel pity and curiosity. i want to know who they are and what led to this condition. i want to pull a fat bill out of my pocket and get them started on the road to recovery. and i want to know that they'd take advantage of it and use it in the best way possible. why, then, do i approach with so much anxiety as the ways in which i can ignore them speed through my brain? there are so many. i can't help them all. usually, i only have about ten bucks anyway - and often, those ten dollars have to last me for three or four more days. every friday i'm in detroit, there is a new person on the corner of southfield road and 8 mile. i always wonder if they race to see who gets to stand there and beg for the day... i also wonder if the man i pass in ann arbor each morning will still be there tomorrow. i offer no insightful solutions here today. i don't know of any. the problem of homelessness plagues this country and it gets worse every single day. could we not just take the cool trillion we drop on a pointless war every year and save our own people? am i super-naive for suggesting that? is it not as easy as it sounds? sympathy is a double-edged sword, you know. you care so much, but you feel so powerless. perhaps for some, apathy is just easier.

1 comment:

Katie said...

"i want to pull a fat bill out of my pocket and get them started on the road to recovery. and i want to know that they'd take advantage of it and use it in the best way possible."

You are doing this for at least one helpless person - A. And I have a feeling that she will use it in the best way possible.