Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Dealing with the Homeless

I always feel uncomfortable whenever a homeless person approaches. My first inclination is to give them money, but it’s hard to do so when I don’t know if I will be feeding their vice or feeding their stomach. Some people give them food, and then they get mad because they want money. This upsets me because I feel like if they were really hungry and homeless, they would appreciate any food they could get. I always wanted to try giving food, but never had any on me when they approached. Until…

Incident #1: A few months ago, I saw a homeless man panhandling at the light rail station. I was coming back from my bridal shower at work, lugging tons of leftover food. I heard him say to someone “Do you have any money so I can eat tonight?” When he passed by me, I said “Excuse me, I have food. Do you want some?” He asked me what it was.

“Fish,” I told him. “Do you like fish? It’s pretty good.”

“Yes, that would be great.” He took the fish, which was wrapped in aluminum foil, and put it in his pocket. “Thank you so much. I’ll eat this tonight.” And he walked away.

That filled me with a sudden sense of peace, feeling happy that I had helped someone survive through one more day in this cruel world.

I always wonder what happened to people for them to end up homeless and on the street. Did they go bankrupt and lose everything? Are they drug addicts or alcoholics who refuse to get help? Horrible as it sounds, sometimes it’s hard to remember that they are still people with real lives and families…

Incident #2: My husband was driving us home one night after dinner. He was about to switch lanes near a traffic light, when we almost ran over a homeless woman who had been standing on one of the white lines separating the lanes, asking for money. We didn’t see her because she had been blocked from view by a truck. I gasped as we swerved around her. She yelled as we passed her, angry, but then I got angry too.
“What is she getting mad at us for? She shouldn’t even be standing there!”
My husband shrugged as we stopped at the light. I looked in the rearview mirror.
“Oh man, I think she’s coming. Why is she coming? If she says something, I’m gonna tell her she shouldn’t even be standing in the middle of the road like that if she doesn’t want to get run over.”
I was looking at my husband in anger and disbelief, when just then he looked out my window and said “Sorry!” I spun around to look, but the woman had already walked away.
“Why did you say sorry? It wasn’t our fault we didn’t see her. And she’s not even supposed to be there!”
My husband said “Oh, but that’s not right. Where else is she supposed to go?”
And then I felt pretty bad.

It’s interesting how one person can have so many different faces, some of them kind, and some of them quite ugly. Which face do YOU usually wear?

Monday, June 21, 2010

Facing Death

At what point in your life do you stop saving for your future and start saving for your funeral?

I recently went to a friend’s grandmother’s wake. Sitting next to my grieving friend, I looked around, trying to find something to comment on, for I never have any idea what to say to people in these situations. My eyes rested on the various flower arrangements that decorated the spaces next to the coffin.

“Those flower arrangements are beautiful,” I said. “Do you know who sent them all?”

“No, nobody sent them,” my friend sniffed, and shook her head slowly. “My grandmother preordered them.”

“She preordered them?” At first, I was dumbfounded, but then I remembered that she had died of cancer, so she must have known approximately how much longer she had to live.

“Yes,” my friend answered. “She ordered them when Richy was 3. She said she didn’t want anything cheap, so she ordered everything herself.”

Hmm. If Richy was 14 now, that was about 11 years ago, and I don’t think she was diagnosed with cancer that long ago. She must have been around 83 years old when she ordered the flowers. I didn’t even know you could do that. Would you pay for the flowers and then just leave the delivery date open?

I imagine that when you reach a certain age, you have to face your mortality right in the eye and just start making plans. Some people make these kinds of plans even earlier, because they have children and want to settle things before it’s too late or in case something ever happens to them. The plans I’m used to hearing about usually concern writing up a last will and testament, but I suppose that funeral arrangements are made as well, if the person has reached a certain age and is realistic about his or her life expectancy.

So when do you say “Okay, I’ve lived my life and I have everything I’ll ever need until I die, so I’m going to start saving for my funeral.” I don’t know if many people have the courage to do this. I think it takes some courage to entertain the notion that your days on this earth are almost up, and then to take it into your own hands to save for and plan your own funeral.

As for myself, I kind of like this idea of having it all paid for and prearranged – not so much because I’m interested in having it done “my way”, but because I do know one thing for sure: funerals can be expensive. I wouldn’t want my death to be a burden on my family. It’s smart, and economical.

It’s also tough. I don’t know if I could do it. However, if I do decide to do it, I wouldn’t begin anytime soon. I think it would be a bit morbid to start saving for that right now. Especially when there’s still so much I want to save for, like buying a house.

If I do this, I’m going to do it right. My plan will be to start when I turn 50 years old, when I’m still working. That gives me more than ten years to save up. A little at a time, of course. There’s no hurry!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Having To Prove Myself

My husband wants us to move to England. He has wanted this for a while, and it looks like it may become a reality. I have mixed feelings about this. On one hand, the small part of me that likes adventure and a change of scenery is embracing the opportunity. On the other hand, the larger part of me that fears whatever is new and unknown is running the other way, screaming.

If I were 21 again, fresh out of college, this decision would be much easier. I would travel to another country to live and work there, no problem! In fact, it’s something I regret not having done. However, at 28, I’ve invested time and hard work into my life and career. I don’t want to start at the bottom again.

Also, there is one other thing. Over the years, I have had to prove myself to people on three counts: because of my young age, because I am a minority, and because I am a woman. I’ve had to do this in everyday life, but mostly in the workplace. Moving to another country means that I would have to prove myself all over again not only on these three aspects of myself, but also as an American.

I don’t know what people in England think about Americans, whether they love us or hate us, but either way, the minute I open my mouth, people will see that I am American and judge me for it. They will see it all: my youth, my skin, my sex, and my birth country, all rolled into one neat little package, ready to be ripped to shreds.

Ok, maybe I’m overreacting a little. Perhaps I am making this into a bigger deal than it has to be. I’m putting too much pressure on myself. This is probably just that part of myself that is running scared and is putting all these crazy ideas into my head. But my nerves have to materialize in some shape or form, right?

What am I so scared of? I have faced many people who have passed judgment on me, and I have succeeded, regardless of what they thought of me. And who cares what they think anyway? I just need to stay focused, and face the challenges this move may bring my way one at a time.