Warning: Not very pithy, served with a dose of politics. Sorry.

31 Jan

The other weekend I had a quintessential DC moment. It was a Sunday afternoon and I was out for a walk. I’d ventured down to the MLK library and walked back past Franklin Square, where homeless people were huddled around eating food that had been distributed by So Others Might Eat.

This is NOT the S.O.M.E van. But wouldn't it be awesome if it were? "Oh hells yeah! I'm gonna get me some wildlife from this van!"

Whenever I see the white S.O.M.E. van, it reminds me of my first winter in DC, when my college friends Brent and Marcus (my then-roommates on Capitol Hill) volunteered to help deliver food. I remember Marcus’s eyes, wide like saucers, recounting the experience after their first time out.

“It was crazy, man,” he said, and I swear his voice had a slight tremble. “We pulled up and it was like a bank heist – we’d be all organized and spring out and start handing out the food as fast as possible. Someone would stay at the wheel in case things got violent and we needed to leave fast.”

Another casualty of delivering food? “People get sick. If it’s the first thing they’ve eaten for a while, it just doesn’t sit well,” Marcus explained.

Apparently Marcus wasn’t exaggerating, because last weekend when I was walking, just after passing the group of people who were eating their S.O.M.E. meals, I looked up and accidentally locked eyes with a man standing with one hand on sign post, projectile vomiting. If you’ve never made eye contact with a stranger puking, I don’t advise it.

The thing that made this experience weird (other than the eye contact bit) was that he was just very matter of fact about it. So calm that I actually found myself scrutinizing the pile of vomit as I walked past it to make sure my eyes hadn’t deceived me. (Confirmed!)

And once he’d finished tossing his cookies (or – more accurately – clam chowder, by the steamy looks of it), he turned around and successfully hailed a bus and disappeared. HAILED A BUS. I didn’t even know a person could do that.

Dude. Only in Canada. They have KITS for this.

Estimates of DC’s homeless population range from 6,000 – 12,000 people. To put that in perspective: my hometown in Michigan has a population of 5,800.

There’s something wrong with this picture. Even with high unemployment rates, we live in a country where most homes have multiple televisions, cars and an extra bedroom. And yet we leave people to sleep without shelter, to scrounge their next meal, while we argue over tax rates for those of us fortunate enough to have a job.

I swear, I’ll get back to the pith (and vinegar) in my next post. I just figured this might be a good reminder – right when we’re in the throes of filing taxes and acutely feeling how much money we didn’t get to hang onto this year – of exactly what we have.

To quote a friend: Love your neighbor, not your wallet.

UPDATED: Unless your wallet looks like this. In which case, you totally should love it:

12 Responses to “Warning: Not very pithy, served with a dose of politics. Sorry.”

  1. Dad January 31, 2012 at 9:57 pm #

    That’s my girl! (Let’s face it. Some things just aren’t funny!)

    • pithypants February 1, 2012 at 3:28 pm #

      True, but I still try to serve a little sugar with the medicine. Which is why there is a photo of a bread wallet in this post! See?

  2. thesinglecell January 31, 2012 at 10:50 pm #

    Older Eyes wrote a post on the struggle of personally confonting homelessness last week. It is a devastating scourge. So often the solution is to push it out of the way so tourists don’t see it. And there are those who choose not to have homes, it’s true. Most of us live in a reality where missing a paycheck or two could put us on the street if we’re not fortunate enough to have loved ones who will help. That’s what I wonder about the most. Who loves them, and why aren’t they with them?

    • pithypants February 1, 2012 at 3:27 pm #

      Right? In some cases, there may well be people looking for them, who have no idea where they are. And in others… well, I don’t know which makes me more sad.

  3. Julio Ibanez January 31, 2012 at 11:51 pm #

    Well said! Regaining perspective is a necessity every once in awhile for all of us. Thanks for the reminder!

  4. Hoyt February 1, 2012 at 10:02 am #

    Did I just get a small mention in your blog? Woohoo! I’m famous!

    P.S. I am on the board of a local mental health agency that serves a primarily homeless population. We actually have mobile vans that go out to the homeless camps to provide health care services. It is truly inspiring to see the good works being done. But it is also eye-opening to start to understand the causes of, and potential remedies, for homelessness. Mental illness plays an incredibly large role, as you might imagine.

    • pithypants February 1, 2012 at 11:11 am #

      You ARE famous, but I was offering the option of anonymity. Feel free to pimp out my blog, now that you’re a featured contributor! 😉

  5. Lorna's Voice February 1, 2012 at 9:13 pm #

    When I worked in DC and saw all the homeless, I was shocked. I was more shocked at myself when I stopped noticing them, though. It must be awful to be treated as if you are invisible, which is what I did along with the legions of people going to and from work on the Metro did every day. Shameful.

    • pithypants February 3, 2012 at 2:17 pm #

      I know. I always try to acknowledge them because it’s horrible when we stop seeing people as human.

  6. happyhippierose February 3, 2012 at 6:29 pm #

    Love this post! I love the idea of “love your neighbor, not your wallet.”

    The plight of the homeless is something so sad. I’m from Central Florida- right now they have the highest rate of homeless kids. It just breaks my heart.

    I wish we could just take better care of each other.

    “You are talking to a leftist. I believe in the redistribution of wealth and power in the world. I believe in universal hospital care for everyone. I believe that we should not have a single homeless person in the richest country in the world. ” -abbie hoffman

  7. squirrel circus February 4, 2012 at 10:33 am #

    Great post — and too true.

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