Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Food for thought

In 2003 for fall break my girlfriends and I drove up to Virginia to visit another girlfriend. She lived in Richmond and one afternoon we went up to Washington, DC to do touristy things and enjoy the beautiful fall foliage.

We weren't planning to eat a meal in the city so we took bottled water and some snacks. Close to sunset we decided we were hungry for real food and we didn't really want to walk around in the dark so we started to head back to the Metro station.

On our way we passed a man who looked pretty shabby. He was looking into one of the trash cans in the park we were in. I don't remember that he acknowledged us at all. We just passed him and went about our way.

A few seconds later my friend Shannon stopped us. She asked us all to give her the snacks and bottled water we had left. Then she turned around and walked back to the man digging into the trash can and gave him what we had.

It was one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen another person do. I don't know if any of my friends know this, but I teared up watching her that day, and I still get misty thinking about it.

Ever since that day I've made it a point to do the same selfless kind of thing.

Then today happened. I was walking out of the mall to my car and I heard someone call to me from across the parking lot, "Hello ma'am." I turned and there was a scruffy looking guy walking towards me.

I panicked, jumped into my car and locked the doors. He didn't stop his advance and I'm pretty sure he said something to me like, "I don't mean you any harm." But my instincts took over and I couldn't make myself react any other way.

He also kept walking towards me when he saw that I was upset and that just made me panic worse. He came up to my window and told me he was homeless and asked for some change. I didn't have any change or cash or food or water. I told him so and he said ok and walked away.

And then I felt horrible.

I realize that keeping myself safe is important and many women in the same position wouldn't have done anything differently.

But I can't stop thinking about how my reaction made him feel.

Common sense would say that he shouldn't have walked up to a woman alone in a parking lot with no one around. But when you're cold and hungry I imagine that common sense doesn't play a big part in your decisions.

This is what society is though. You never know when that person isn't really homeless and they want something besides change or a little food. Knowing this makes me sad and a little frightened.

I don't regret that I protect myself.

I do regret not doing something to help.

It started snowing a couple hours ago and it's supposed to keep going the next few days.

I hope he finds some warmth.

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