Friday, September 4, 2009

Back to School and Homeless

Yeah I know. You don't usually find these two terms in the same sentence unless you've been kicked out of your dorm or apartment. Really, for me they are unrelated, other than the fact that they are both events that occured during the same week.

This week marked the first full week of back to school routine for us and our kids. All the supplies are bought and labeled, all the shoes and clothes are labeled, the morning and evening routine are coming together, and the fatigue of the return to the rat race routine is coming back....again. We made a resolution this week that we would try a few changes to make the race a little less exhausting. I'll keep you posted on how that turns out...Part of my routine is my two runs during the week lunch hour followed by my favourite smoothie afterward. Working downtown, I see a fair bit of homeless people, begging for money, or just hanging out and sleeping just about anywhere you can imagine. Some are more aggressive than others and some are creative in their methods; One fellow sells smiles for a penny....Pretty good marketing. I wonder if he makes more than others.

After a while you come to recognize the familiar faces and sort of expect to see them day after day. You even notice when they are not there...Out of principle, I refuse to give money to beggars. It's not that I am sans coeur but rather that I don't know what they are going to do with it. Are they going to blow it on video lottery, booze, cigarettes, drugs, whatever. I don't want to encourage these things. Also, I must admit there are a few that I suspect are not even homeless at all. They seem well-dressed and groomed (and not always dressed in the same clothes). They seem able-bodied and well adjusted, which makes me wonder why aren't they working to EARN their money like I am? Is this an easy way to get some extra spending money, etc? Anyway, so my method is to offer them something when I can. For example, I regularly offer one fellow a cup of coffee on my way in to work in the morning. He seems genuinely thankful for that small gesture. On other occasions, I'll offer a McDonalds cheeseburger on my way back from the gym - which brings me to today's incident. There is one fellow I have seen for about 2 years now who always displays the same sign on a cardboard box lid; "I'm hungry, please help". After picking up my smoothie, I decided I would drop by the McDonalds and buy him a cheeseburger. As I walked by and offered him the burger, he politely declined and said he was a vegetarian...I was at a loss for words, stuffed the burger back in the little brown bag and went to my office. I have nothing against vegetarians, really. But homeless vegetarians...If this guy refuses handouts, I guess that sort of explains his sign. I always was of the opinion that beggars can't be choosers, but I guess the times they are a changing. Then again, maybe he isn't homeless at all and is part of the second cohort I wrote of earlier. Either way, he didn't get a burger, and he didn't get my money. I, on the other hand, spent 2 bucks I didn't have to, ate a cheeseburger I shouldn't have, and yet again became more suspicious of the legitimacy of our ever-present homeless situation. I guess I'll just keep my burgers to myself...

Keep on running ;-)

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