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 She was sitting on the ground, back against the wall, arms wrapped around her knees, looking withdrawn and defeated.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?