Tuesday, April 03, 2007

hard on the outside

I am seeing more homeless folks around than usual and each time it's like a whack in the head. The grocery store had four or five folks strategically sitting at various entrances and exits. As M and I left we stopped to give some money to a woman holding up a sign that simply said: Spare?

After I handed her a couple bucks I asked do you have a place to stay tonight? She replied some might call me homeless. I was staying at a place that closed down, and now I have to make $37.00 a day in order to pay for my share of a hotel room or I am stuck outside. After I removed the knife from my head I said that's a hard life, friend - you know, I work with people who need housing. I might be able to help. She replied Oh, really? You think? You know, I can sing. I can even dance a little. I am a bit of an artist.

Sister, maybe I might be able to help. Give me a call if you want to try something different than this. I most certainly do, she said. Her voice was so beautiful, lyrical, sweet. A grandmotherly type of woman who you just know in different circumstances makes a nice pot of tea. I'd sure love to hear her sing.

Sometimes I feel like I could go ballistic...a renegade wingnut rounding everyone up in my old civic and taking them to a shelter, or better yet, to go scream at City Hall. It's this strange fiery brew inside of me that is in actuality a selfish clucking pile of limp spaghetti left out on the counter from the night before. I can't bring myself to transport anyone in my car with M in it because the one off chance of it going sideways is too much to risk. I am not yelling on the steps of our civic leaders alone or with others; I haven't done that in years. I am hazy and befuddled, angry in the wrong places. The knife stays put, wedged deep in my head. M asked what you doing mommy? Who is her? What you give her mommy? We gave her some money so she can sleep in a bed tonight, baby, just like you and me.

I wonder if M wonders why we leave people standing on corners instead of bringing them home with us. I wonder how I'll answer when she finally asks me why that is.

It's time for our fourth Just Post Roundtable. If you have a post of yours or one you've appreciated that was written by someone else, please send them my way (to girlplustwo (at) yahoo(dot) com) by April 7th and I'll send you the button. Go on. It's good for the soul.

We'll link all posts and anyone who refers one (or more) in our Just Post Roundtable on the 10th. If this is new to you, please feel free to check it out here. All Just Posts will also be featured in The Whole Mom webzine every month.


Thailand Gal said...

That is the hardest question of all. When is it appropriate to explain the concept of potential danger from others to M?



Hel said...

My heart aches with you.

I also find myself struggling to make sense of a world in which some people have so much and others so little. I want to give more. But I fear giving up my generous income and struggling to make ends meet.

I ask myself. Can I make a difference? Will I end up sacrificing everything to others and keeping nothing for me and my family? There are so much hopelessness. Will it chew me up and spit me out and leave me bitter and cynical?

I don't know but I will have to try. I wish we could sit up all night and talk and talk about this until we reach that place where words fall away and truth reveals herself.

Look after yourself. I worry that you are getting lost in the sadness around you. You cannot make it better for everyone. You need your home and family to stay separate and nourish you. Otherwise you could not smile at those who need you to.

My answer feels clumsy compared to what my heart wants to tell you.

scribbit said...

I can't remember if I ever mentioned Homeless Bill to you before but there's a man who stands on a certain corner carrying a sign that says, "Homeless Bill needs Rich Wife." It cracks me up and sometimes I'll see him wandering about the area on different corners but always with the sign. One time he was sitting down and was with a woman. My car stopped at the intersection and I looked at him. He saw me and then reached over and grabbed the woman in the most passionate of tongue-ish kisses I've ever seen off-screen.

For two years I've wondered what that guy's story is but whatever he's obviously pretty darn colorful. I've figured it takes a special breed to make it as a homeless person in Alaska--camping on a beach is one thing, keeping warm in 10 below, that's another.

Oh, The Joys said...

M is a lucky kiddo to have you for a mom.

Lucia said...

Some days I feel I can make a difference.
Some days I feel I can make a small difference.
Some days I feel I can make no difference.
And I hate that feeling of powerlessness.

Julie Pippert said...



You know...if someone had a magic wand and could wave it, is there even any magic that could fix this?

On the upside, you care. And you teach M to care, too.

carrie said...

Children are so open when they are little.

I wish they could stay that way forever.


Kyla said...

Oh jen, you are such a beautiful person. So much passion and kindness and generosity.

jen said...

But that's it, right..we teach them how not to be open, because we were taught it too. And the cycle goes on. Even in trying to help, we still show our limitations and teach them what we know about differences.

thanks everyone.

meno said...

Once you open your eyes to see all the want in the world it's not possible to close them again.

I wonder if that's why many people don't see.

Think what you are teaching your baby girl. She will be a good force in this world.

Denguy said...

Yes, I'm stuck on the "whys" my kids are asking me now.

Velma said...

I struggle so much with that tightrope of how much to say to my children, how to break it down for them so they can understand. But how can you explain the things that are so wrong with the world?

kristen said...

Trying to explain the hardships of life (even our own) is so very delicate and I am often humbled by the depth of understanding that my girl displays.

Because of you Jen, I'm much more aware of homeless people and find myself giving money even if I'm not asked because....well just because.

Tabba said...

Jen - you know of my admiration for your strength, for this great, giving spirit, your passion, your kind heart - and your willingness to share it.
I have to say though, that you letting us in on this more fragile you, the frustrated you, I find appealing too. I like hearing you work your way through something - your process. I'm not saying I like hearing that you're struggling with something. But your ability to open up & let us see. Your wonderful, wild kaleidoscope.
It's breathtaking, really.

And then throw in your love of M & J.
You're a gift to us all.

Beck said...

It's a hard balance. I want my kids to be empathetic, caring, good people - but I don't think I'll get to that point by making them hard and scared young.

slouching mom said...

What Beck said. How to know what's the right amount of information to give our kids, what's too little, what's too much, and when?

I don't know.

crazymumma said...

I struggle with why I don't bring people home to sleep. And it is because I have children. And. I say this with a bit of shame. I feel a fear of the unknown. Of something I might not be able to predict.

My children. Thailand Girl said it pretty good. potential danger. But shit, that could come from an uncle a grandpa.

We do what we can. What our hearts and minds will allow. And you do alought Jen. Try and ease that knife out a touch.

flutter said...

how would you feel talking to me about the logistics of starting a shelter for young girls?

Laurie said...

I pass by the Denver Rescue Mission every day on my way home from the hospital and every day I think of you and the wonderful work you are doing. It's people like you that give people like me hope.

Thank you.

jen said...


Hell, yes. Email me and i'll give you my number.

Laurie...I love the DRM...they do great work there..the Mayor in denver rocks.

Beck/Slouch/Mum...I know. that's the rub. I am teaching her the wrong things even when trying to do the right thing. I have to think about that.

Mrs. Chicky said...

I can't imagine my mother ever being as forthright with me as you are with M. She's one lucky little girl.

redneck Mommy said...

Your passion for the homeless resonates to me and my passion for the disabled. Sadly, as you know, often the two meet...

It is a fine balance I walk to share the REAL world with my children and yet maintain what innocence I can protect in them for as long as possible.

Sadly, those days of innocence are coming to a rapid end with my children.

Pull that knife out darling, and know what a gift it is you are passing on to your daughter and all those you help, every day.

urban-urchin said...

You are doing far more by example for M than someone who gives a guy a dollar and makes a big deal about it. She's your kid, she'll get it.

NotSoSage said...

Oh, jen, I know. And M will know, too...eventually. She will.

karrie said...

I agree with OTJ--M is a very fortunate little girl.

When our M is a little bit older, we want to volunteer as a family. Both my husband and I worry abt how much our son will take for granted.

Jay said...

This was a beautiful post. I don't often get to read about this kind of thing when in reality, I believe we need to hear more of it.

mamatulip said...

It's this strange fiery brew inside of me that is in actuality a selfish clucking pile of limp spaghetti left out on the counter from the night before.

I love how you describe what you're feeling and thinking to us.

When I was young, after I had realized that there was more to the world than just Canada and that there were people who lived with much, much less than what I had, I had a hard time accepting that. I asked my mom question after question, and in our own way we tried to help. To make a difference. My mom tried to explain things to me when I asked so I'd understand; she never swept things under the rug. You will do the same with M, I think, and raise her with an awareness and a desire to make a difference that many other children simply won't have.

ewe are here said...

I agree... striking the right balance is sooo hard, especially when they're so young.

And it's only going to get harder this year for you I suspect. With winter shelters closing and foreclosure rates going thru the roof....so many people aren't going to have anyplace to go! So sad.

Susanne said...

Yes, it's hard to try to explain the world to our children. Especially when we can't really make sense of it ourselves.

Alice said...

"We gave her some money so she can sleep in a bed tonight, baby, just like you and me."

That is a perfect sentiment. The concept that she deserves the basics of life because she is just like you and me.