While walking to the library today to drop off some books (books on environmentalism, activism and plants: three books by Derrick Jensen and one by Michael Pollan), I came across a homeless mother of about 43 in age with her three children (One sleeping baby boy in a stroller, and two cute young girls that were probably 5 and 6.5 years of age).
The mother was holding a large white sign with writing in poor English, written using black permanent marker and containing a few misspelled words, though easily decipherable enough for most anyone to be able to understand that her and her kids were in need of help by means of food and money. She smiled in my direction and waved to me from across the street; her children from what I remember were entertaining themselves with a smart phone, or a toy, all of which were sitting in lightweight folding chairs. I couldn't pay too much attention to exactly what the girls were doing within those few seconds as I had decided immediately to cross the street to respectfully interact with them, which could only be done by looking both ways for all the vehicles passing by first of course. I smiled and waved in return, then cautiously began to jaywalk my way over to them.
After I quickly crossed the street, the mother said Hello and asked if I could help. Her ethnicity was not easy to determine, though her features and her children's features were similar to that of Roma gypsies. Regardless of her and her children's ethnic background, I thought they were all very beautiful. Up close, I could tell the girls were indeed using a smart phone, and, that the mother was not a drug addict - only an immigrant from some distant land, struggling to some unknown degree. Seeing that she obviously was not a drug addict up close made it acceptable to me to provide assistance. I have been a homeless/houseless drifter myself many times over the last 12 years by choice, have experience panhandling, hitchhiking, and sleeping in the most unusual places - all while coming across and meeting a large variety of people living on the street by choice or against their will. I have learned that most people who beg for money almost always spend it on their vice of choice (usually alcohol and nicotine products), so therefore I rarely help such people who beg these days unless I have gotten to know them by circumstance: but begging for money to help a substance addiction wasn't the case here; this family needed money for food items, diapers and clothing.
I pulled out my modified pink wallet, covered with handwriting pertaining to my philosophy of life so that I always have it with me. I was a little nervous... Nervous because of the girls, the fact that I am a MAP, and if you haven't noticed, my mind has certainly been on the subject of children lately - more so than any other time in my life. I put my thoughts to the side, and didn't let them interfere with what I needed to do however. I emptied out my wallet for them - I gave them all the cash that I had. I don't even know exactly how much I gave them. I didn't care. They needed it more than me, and since I have been in a similar position in life while living on the street without steady income, I know how much it can mean to a person to be handed a few dollars. I handed the mother a roll of bills.
The woman thanked me and said Bless you. The girls were giving me their attention now and then - almost simultaneously - gave me their own Thank yous with that cute little girl voice that makes life worth living for whenever it is heard. I smiled at the girls while looking into their youthful brown eyes, and then directed my focus back to the mother and blessed them all back (even though I'm not religious, but still have faith in the meaning of such words). I told them I have been homeless (houseless) myself. I'm not sure if the mother knew exactly what the word 'homeless' means in English, but she could tell I was simply trying to relate and sympathize in some form. Due to the language barrier, I decided not to say much more, to avoid anything awkward. I said "Be well - stay strong - don't give up!" while smiling one last time and started to continue my journey to the library. As soon as I started moving away the mother and her children all said Thank you a final time. I continued up the sidewalk without looking back, and eventually crossed the road again to the path I had been on before. In my mind, I wished them the best, hoping they would all find themselves living in a more comfortable living situation as soon as possible.
Another day ~ Another experience as a MAP proving I mean no harm in our world around children.
Epilogue: After returning the four books to the library, then making my way back to my home the same way that I came, I saw the family of four again, still there in the same spot begging for money. I had been thinking about them in combination with everything else I was thinking about since I had first saw them a little over an hour earlier. This time I made an effort to communicate more as I had to know more about them, which went smoothly. I asked them where they originated from and the mother said France. The mother also tried to explain to me that her previous employer didn't pay her some money that she deserved. I said I was very sorry to hear this, while looking at all of them. The only thing I could do to help them at that point that seemed reasonable was write on a piece of paper some very specific information about a food pantry I knew of that they could go to to receive free food items on a weekly basis. I wrote down the information on a scrap piece of paper I had found at a construction site while heading back, knowing I might see them again. The mother couldn't read what the note said (at least I don't think she could), since she handed the note to the oldest daughter to see if she could read it very quickly. I tried to explain the location of the food pantry was at a church. They spoke French discussing the information for a couple seconds and then thanked me yet again for my help. I said it was my pleasure to do so, exchanged smiles and waves of departure to each other, then moved on - still hoping a miracle happens for them in the future, since I hurt the most when I see children in needy situations.