A Rose for Stacey

This post is going to be long. At least read the first half.

This post is going to hurt to write and I hope it hurts to read.

This post will [hopefully] be worth it.

This post will probably not be proof-read, so please ignore any errors. I just can’t read through it again.

We went to New Orleans this weekend – my boyfriend, his sister, his aunt, and me. It was awful. Don’t get me wrong, the shops were cool, the parade was great, and the company was fantastic, but it was loud/crowded, dirty, and there was poverty everywhere. That’s what made it bad. The evidence was everywhere – people sleeping on the streets and in the park, people asking for money or leftovers, people just sitting on the ground, staring at nothing. People riding a bike walking around with what looked like everything they own on their back. People who didn’t own anything but the clothes on their back. And Stacey.

Stacey was a bright spot, though not at first. I felt for her immediately. The first time I saw her burned into my brain. We just got some drinks and were continuing our walk down the sidewalk when I saw her. She had a box lid in front of here with a few coins in it and a sign that said “anything helps.” She wasn’t begging. She wasn’t asking passersby if they could spare a dollar. She was sitting on the ground, back against the wall, arms wrapped around her knees, looking withdrawn and defeated. I felt an immediate connection and my heart reached out for her. I wanted to give her everything – my shirt, my jacket, my drink, and all the money I had in my pocket. I wanted to giver a home and a life. I wanted to know her story. I wanted her to be okay. I wanted to give her hope.

We kept walking, and I kept thinking about her. And thinking about her. And thinking about her. Several times I tried to tell the group that I was going to go run off on my own for a bit, so I could go and see her. But, I’m introverted, I’m shy, and I just couldn’t. Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore, and I told my SO I was going to walk ahead. He was very confused (since I have social anxiety and there’s crowds of people everywhere), but let me go. I went to the Cafe and got two orders of bennetts, a small coffee, and two water bottles. Then I marched over to where Stacey had been. Had been. I walked around a little more, determined to find her. I almost asked another person playing music if he had seen her, but I couldn’t bring myself to. There was a cop standing where she had been sitting and after three tries, I finally mustered up the courage to ask him if he’d seen her. He pointed her out to me, walking away with a guy with a pit bull.

I walked as fast as I could to catch up to her. Mind you, all the homeless people tore into my soul, but Stacey tore at my heart. My soul still hurts from all the poverty I saw. I wonder if all cities are like that. It hurts to think about. I guess that’s why people don’t. And you never know just how to help. Some people stay homeless and just take handouts without trying to do better. Not all, but some. That makes it hard to just give money or food or clothes to someone. I guess the reason Stacey caught me is because if I was in her situation, where I had to ask people for money because I didn’t have another means of getting any, I would have sat and looked just like she did. Even though I know I’ll never be in that situation, I somehow saw myself in her.

I caught up to her. She was carrying a bag with little food. I told her I saw her earlier and I bought some doughnuts and asked if we could hang out and talk. She said yes, so we found a place to sit out of the way and I gave her some bennetts and the coffee and a water bottle. She was introverted too. I guess I expected her to tell me all her troubles, because that’s what others in bad situations have done, but she didn’t. She didn’t talk much at all. So, I had to prompt her a little bit. She did talk some and she asked a few questions about me like who I was with and how long I was staying. I found out that the pit bull was hers and only 7 months. The guy walking the dog was a friend of hers who lets the dog stay with him since the shelter doesn’t allow it. I found out that people feed the dog better than they feed her. I found out that she sleeps at a shelter every night that she is able to scrape together enough money to do so. She likes to stay at the shelter that costs money because there’s less crime there. She owns nothing more than the clothes on her back and that little bit of food she was able to buy. She gets jumped occasionally. The last time she got jumped, they took her social security card and her I.D. card, so she’s starting from scratch. She has asthma which makes it difficult to work (though she tries and she’s determined to get another job), and she can’t afford an inhaler. She also has bad allergies, like me. I can’t help but to think that if she had all the opportunities that I did, she would have done something great with her life, like I’m trying to do. I also found out that she doesn’t drink alcohol and she really likes Monster energy drinks.

She has a positive attitude, regardless. One thing I liked is she never told me how much it costs to get into the shelter (until I asked – $10) and she never told me that she didn’t get enough to get in that night (though I knew she didn’t). She has hopes and dreams. She calls this time “a bump in the road” and she’s determined to get back on track. She’s second in line to get placed into a home. I told her I was routing for her and hoped that life got better. I gave her $20 so she could get more food and get into the shelter. I told her I would try to see her tomorrow when we would be out shopping around, and I gave my two uneaten bennetts to her friend as I left.

I didn’t see her the next day, and I feel awful about it. When I finally got back to the group, my boyfriend had been worried, and while his aunt and sister said it was nice that I took her some bennetts, my SO didn’t get it. He didn’t say it, but the look on his face said (I thought) “why the fuck would do that for some homeless nobody?” I really hope I misread that, but sadly, I don’t think that’s the case.

The day we went to the french market. I found a necklace there that I bought to give to Stacey, hoping we would walk that way and I would see her – we didn’t. It was a simple, silver rose on a silver chain. A rose for Stacey. A rose she never got. A rose that I have in my bed-side drawer. I feel so guilty. I never even tried to get the group to go that way. It wouldn’t have been too much out our way, and I don’t think the two ladies would have minded. It was the look that my SO had on his face when I showed him what I bought for Stacey that caused me to hide my tongue. I’m tearing up now just thinking about it. I just wish he would have tried to understand. If it’s something I care about, then he should care about it too, right? Or at least ask me about it and try to understand why I wanted to be nice to her and give her the necklace. I like her. I connect with her. I care about her. And he won’t even try. And I’m too afraid to speak up. I feel like I bite my tongue around him a lot lately, but that’s a different story. And this is not the end of this blog.

I said it would be long. But there’s more I need to get off my chest. Even if you don’t want to read anymore, at least read the favor I’m about to ask.

If you ever go to NO, please, please check on her. She sits in front of the Walgreen’s on Decatur St., by Wilkinson St. She’s black, looks to be in later 20’s or maybe early 30’s and she was wearing black pants and a black hoodie. Please, just give her something – anything: a Monster drink, a cup of coffee, some fruit, some bennetts, a dollar, a hug, a smile. Just give her something, look her in the eyes, and tell her that Brandy is thinking about her and rooting for her. Tell her you’re rooting for her too. Give her hope. Keep her spirit alive. Also, ask her what shelter she goes to and let me know. I want to send a donation there.

Now onto a few more events that I just need to get out.

One, a comment the boyfriend made when I told him about meeting up with Stacey and that I ended up also giving her enough money to get into the Shelter (with a little extra): “hopefully we don’t see her in a bar later.” Why? Her life seems horrible. She has no money, job, home, or even identification. She gets jumped regularly, so it’s not like she would work on saving up money for anything, because it would just get stolen. If I was in her situation, and I had a little extra cash, I would buy a drink or two. If they’d let me without and I.D. People look down on the homeless when they drink (and I used to also), but who cares? It’s not like society is really willing to give them a chance with anything. Not a lot of people are willing to hire someone homeless and jobless. Not a lot of people are willing to share their home with someone who doesn’t have one and help them find the means to support themselves. It’s not like they have a lot of options. If they want to buy a bottle and get so drunk that they can’t think straight so they don’t have to mull over their situation, let them. It’s hard to come out of rock bottom, especially when society isn’t looking to help.

Another, someone asked for our leftovers after leaving a nice restaurant. Now, Brandy, why would that bother you when you were willing to give the shirt off your back to someone else? Good question, Reader. Because I don’t know them and I don’t like being pressured. No, I didn’t know Stacey either, but she also didn’t pressure me. These guys seem perfectly well off. There was a group of them. They all had back packs and some had instruments. Instead of buying their own food (though, I don’t know for sure that they had the money to), they hung around an expensive restaurant, knowing the portions were big and that people would leave with leftovers, then ask for that food. So, they got a nice, expensive meal for free. That just rubbed me the wrong way, I guess. However, I was thinking about it, and they probably would have been thrown away, anyway. it takes oil, water, work, and money to make food, and it costs money, and a large percent of all food made never reaches a human mouth – just goes straight into the garbage. So, I guess if those guys kept that food from going in the trash, and got a nice meal, then, that’s okay.

Another is a guy standing out by the french market asking for money. Again, why would he bother me and not Stacey? Well, first off, he had his hands in his pants, which is just creepy. I guess that was really the main thing that bothered me. He was asking people if they could spare a dollar so he could get some food. But still, why would you approach me with your hands down your pants asking for money? Ask me for a banana and keep your hand visible.

One small instant was I witnessed some guy steel something like it was nothing. He just walked up, grabbed a soda w/out paying, and walked off. He was also holding one of those containers of sugar that you see at Waffle House that I’m pretty sure he stole too. He didn’t even look like he was bad off, he just looked like a bad person. White skin, black hair, and dressed hard core gothic.

Last one – a vendor. At the French market, there were many, many vendors and a few of them were selling marble sculptors/figures, cups, shot glasses, and little boxes. One of these tables also had marble chess sets. I’ve been wanting a marble chess set. One of them had jade and white pieces. It was beautiful. I bought it. I hate that I bought it. Here’s why – the main reason I bought it, was the vendor pressured me too much. Have I mentioned I’m an introvert? I can’t handle pressure from others very well. Don’t get me wrong, at first I really, really wanted it. But, the more I thought about it, and my boyfriend said a few things, the more I realized it was a dumb purchase and tried to get out of it. It was heavy, I already have a chess set that’s part of a multi-game box, and I haven’t played chess with another human since I graduated college almost a year ago. And we’re looking at moving into a smaller space soon, so we need to be downsizing, not buying stupid crap. That, and it wasn’t in my budget. But the guy kept pressuring me and lowering the price and I tried to get away a few times but there was just so much pressure and I just bought the damn thing and cried about it on and off the rest of the day (it doesn’t help that this weekend and today are pms days).

So, that was my [awful] trip to New Orleans. I wish I knew how to help the poverty. But I don’t. I don’t think feeding them and giving them money straight up is a help. Maybe donating to the shelters and the programs that help house them is a help. My Grandpa’s church offered their church as a living space for one of those programs. The first family who moved in was a man and woman and three kids (why the hell would you have three kids if you don’t have a house?). They were pretty terrible. The man kept saying he was trying to find a job, but he really wasn’t. One of the ladies even got him an interview at Walmart because she has a contact there, but he never went to it even though he said he did. They let their middle child draw all over the walls and furniture and just in general let their kids run wild. The shelter was supposed to send food and water supplies once a month, but didn’t, so the church fed them. The church finally kicked them out. However, they did keep doing the program, and the next person who was housed there was a loner and got a job and was soon able to move out. So, not everyone simply rides the system, but I think too many do ride the system, which makes it hard to help those who are really trying to get out of it. You want to help people, but only people who are willing to help themselves. Stacey sees her situation as a set back, so I didn’t mind helping her during her rough patch because I know she is trying to get out of it. I know she’s not riding the system. That first family that stayed at my grandpa’s church – they were just in it for the free ride. I feel bad for those kids. I feel bad for society. I feel bad for not giving Stacey her rose.

Please, please, please share any thoughts, observations, ideas, personal stories, etc that you have. Even if you only read the first half. How do you think we can help the homeless, or if we even can? Do you have a story where you tried to help someone in need or at least talked to them and heard their story? Do you have a story of someone abusing the system?

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7 thoughts on “A Rose for Stacey

  1. First off I was in New Orleans over winter break, so I observed many of the things you are talking about. Next before college I lived around NYC and being familiar with several metropolis locations around the US, poverty can be very in your face. I’ve been to India and NYC so I’ve seen worse poverty than New Orleans. It really hits me in NYC because the homeless people are out and about during the day, but when it gets cold at night they huddle around garbage bags and sometimes illegally in the sheltered basement entrances to apartments. In those comparisons New Orleans is better for the poor, but still urban poverty is always in your face.

    To me it was very evident that NO was still recovering from the aftermath of Katrina. The construction and run down parts of town around the outskirts are good indicators of that. Also the kind of services NO has started to cater towards are attracting a lot of troublemakers and a result of the struggles that poverty creates.

    I truly feel for you and how much this disturbed you. I would like to suggest that you channel your emotions towards poverty in general than a particular individual. I once gifted 10 dollars to a person I didn’t know, but it didn’t really cure their struggle with poverty. While you may have sympathized with Stacey there are many others like here who are not cheating the system, but victims of others in need who term to crime or abuse government services. In my opinion education, public housing, and donation of basic necessities are what help improve the standard of living for the desperate.

    Sorry to give you what ended up to be a logical response for an emotional problem, but I have been down that path and then unfortunately become desensitized by repeated exposure. However I’ve used my perspective to teach poor immigrant children, donate my clothes, do economic research concerning how the poor constantly get ignored, and really give a shit. I’ll be the first to say that anything I have done is quite minimal in the scope of things, but my point is that you can channel these negative impressions towards a positive cause. Now you’re one of the people who really understands what it’s like to be poor instead of turning your back on them and that is a very powerful thing to understand.

    Urban poverty by far is the most common type of poverty because poor people can actually scrape by in an urban environment. There are more public resources available to them, but at the same time the clustering of poor people in one area causes a brutal fight for access to resources.i just brought this up to quickly address your comment about kids. It’s different in third world countries, but in the US poor people having kids is a matter of poor access to healthcare. There is a direct correlation between how much money you have and your ability to take care of your health. Therefore contraception is rarely used and teenage pregnancy can be quite common. Many women in poverty grow up to advise their kids to be more responsible, but the same incentives still exist and certain behaviors will happen in such circumstances.

    I hope I didn’t make the situation worse for you, but I just tried to share a complete list of what I could bring to the table because I have dealt with very similar situations.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This thought provoking enough that I had to rant on in a second comment. My friends and I talked about this for a good bit and through my discussion I realized that some of the things I had said were pretty unclear. When talking about focusing on poverty in general, I don’t mean abandoning helping individuals like Stacey because that is a very noble cause. I just talked about thinking about poverty in general because I’ve really hurt myself worrying about the struggles of individuals and it can be very hard when not keeping a larger perspective. Keep helping Stacey 🙂 I’m really glad I went and read all of this because I found someone else who really gives a shit about poor people. Sorry my thoughts were all over the place, I just have a million thoughts about poverty and wasn’t able to channel my agreement and advice into one cohesive thought.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your comments. I do frequently purge through my clothes and donate them. Though I suppose more than enough clothes get donated. I guess things like soap, towels, TP, tissues, etc. would be more beneficial. Though I live in southern MS and there’s not nearly as much poverty as in a big city, or at least you don’t see it because they’re not sitting on the streets. Thank you for being sympathetic and for sharing your efforts. It seems like so many people just write them off, it’s nice to be reminded that not everyone does. Of course, I don’t REALLY know what’s it’s like to be poor because my family has always been decently well off, but I have a strong imagination and could imagine myself in a similar situation and how I might feel or act. Sometimes I feel so guilty for what I have. My parents worked hard and saved money so we’ve always had a nice house, plenty of toys, computers, and eventually even bought some horses and moved out into the country. (Not that we were very far from country in rural MS.) I would have friends whose parents were in debt and barely scraping by come over and comment on how nice the house is and big the tv is and feel flustered. When I see people like Stacey struggling on the streets, I feel guilty that I’m doing so well. Twice a week I volunteer to tutor adults who are trying to get their GED. That’s always a bright spot in my week. You said you do economic researching on this – could you recommend any reading material? Again, I appreciate the passion and the sympathy in your comment. I couldn’t even image going to a bigger city like NYC. Although I went to Chicago once and didn’t notice much…then again, I was a different person then, with a different view on the homeless…

      It’s nice to have someone that has similar passions and I’m glad we can swap views and opinions as we have been. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I unfortunately don’t have anything off the top of my head you would actually want to read. Most people who talk about poverty don’t donate anything or actually help poor people. The stuff I read is quite theoretical about the overall causes of poverty and possible solutions. I really admire how much you do to help people in need and that may inspire me to do even more. One of the basic problems is that people who are well off enough to have the luxury to sit around and debate the causes and solutions of poverty take it so theoretically that they don’t end up doing anything about. I’ve been surrounded by poor neighborhoods my whole life and even though I’ve been fine financially it still haunts me. Wish there were more people like you who truly understand the struggle of poor people. They have very little ability to make their voices heard on their own.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I really enjoyed this post and could relate to it! Just a couple weeks ago I saw this young woman, probably around my age (early-mid 20s), on a downtown street where I live with a sign asking for money and I just walked by at first, in a rush. Later on I walked by that same street again and she was crying. Now, I usually try to ask people sitting on the streets, when I’m not in a rush/feeling shy, if they want anything to eat (especially if there’s a convenience store nearby), but this woman got to me really deeply. At first I asked her if she was okay (she said she was–I didn’t want to push her), then if she wanted anything to eat or anything. She said she didn’t need any food but I felt so bad just leaving her there so I gave her a $5 bill. I thought about it so much later that day–why did I give her money when I wouldn’t for anyone else? Am I just a gullible softy? In any case, I think what you did was wonderful and in general I think it’s beneficial to have a soft heart and feel compassion for the people around us. Sometimes I feel bad that I’m not doing enough, like I should be putting effort into making a systematic change, but little acts shouldn’t be ignored either 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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