One of the most infuriating opinions I often overhear is this degradation of poverty, of those so down on their luck they’re homeless or panhandle on the side of the street, or need assistance with bills or health care. I hear too many people say they deserve it, or they’re freeloaders, or drug addicts, or basically just worthless non-people, people whose existence apparently doesn’t count anymore.
There are a lot – a lot – of things I could say in reply to this opinion. And sometimes I do – and yet, there’s a very specific memory I have, one that stuck with me for a few years. I wrote about it a while back, and any time I reread it, I just think – yes. This is why it matters.
As we turned off of Third Street, and onto Grant, we passed a woman standing on the corner. She looked tired. Not in the I didn’t get enough sleep last night way. More I’m tired of how hard life is, all the time, nonstop sort of way.
Lauren, Becky, and I had just spent the morning lounging on the IU campus in the sunlight, and then had a delicious lunch at a Creole and Canjun style restaurant. We were tipsy on sunshine and laughter.
We drove past this woman and I read the small cardboard sign she was holding: Single mother. 2 kids. Homeless. Anything will help.
She looked tired, but strong as she stood there at the corner. Cars rolled by, people on the sidewalks walked around her. It seemed like she was completely resigned to the fact that most people were going to overlook her, let their eyes wash right over her and pretend not to see her, a person. But she felt like she had to at least try.
We paused at the stop sign and I purposefully didn’t look at her. I started to be one of those people that walk on by without acknowledging her.