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Thoughts from the cold

October 29, 2012


I dressed warmly for the Vanderbilt game last night. Even so, I was getting cold before halftime. I’m sure the metal bleachers didn’t help. What I’ve discovered is that it’s easy being cold. It’s not comfortable by any means, but I know I have a car that has heat and even seat warmers, a warm home and warm bed waiting for me. Even when walking to my car I know I can stop at Starbucks (not ideal) or Barnes and Noble for a warm drink. The point is, I can withstand some cold knowing that warmth will be in my near future. What a luxury. There were people last night sleeping outside having to figure out where they could find warmth in the morning. Not many places want homeless folks coming into their establishments. 

As I lay in bed, I was thankful for the hot bath that took the chill off my body, the warm bed made warmer by the furnace that is my husband and the burp in the hallway that tells me the heat has turned on. 

We walked to Starbucks, leaving before halftime of the ball game. Sitting down, I could feel tingling in my hands as they warmed. The place was empty except for one student studying in a corner. It soon started filling up. I noticed a man sitting beside the door. Upon inspection, I saw that he was in regular, clean clothes. He was talking, but making no sound and using his hands to emphasize the point he was trying to make to a person who was not there. It can make an onlooker very uncomfortable. As we left, I said goodnight to the man. I wanted him to know he was not invisible and worth being spoken to. I noticed he had a coffee cup from Wendy’s just across the street. I found that interesting. He was sitting in Starbucks with coffee from Wendy’s. 

Words my dad has spoken when talking about less fortunate people came to me. Sometimes people just want to feel “normal” or like everyone else they see. I don’t know that this was the case for the man; what if he couldn’t afford Starbucks, but wanted to experience it in some way by drinking coffee in the Starbucks building? Would that make him feel a bit more “normal”? The people you see wearing new clothes walking in front of their housing unit on 12th avenue, maybe they want to feel “normal”. The guy at the grocery store using food stamps and then buying a carton of cigarettes, does that make him feel “normal”? When all the other aspects of your life are not normal, something like a cigarette can give you the illusion for just a minute that you are just like how you perceive everyone else. 

One of the best presentations that changed the way I looked at some things took place during my work’s United Way campaign. There was a rep who came in and handed us a pack of Smarties and a sheet of paper. On it was a list of things like transportation to work, housing, food, health, entertainment, etc. To the side of each of those were three choices with a circle/ circles the size of a Smartie under each one. 

Ex: Transportation to work: buy a car (two circles underneath), public transportation (one circle) and walking (no circles). 

There are about 15 Smarties in a pack. The exercise was to spend all your Smarties. You could choose one way to spend them on each item (transportation, food, etc). There were about 10 items. Let’s just say I ran out of Smarties very quickly when I picked options that met my living conditions. I had to start making choices. Do I buy a car and do laundry at a laundromat? Do I have a washer and dryer at home and walk to work? Get the picture? I didn’t have enough Smarties to live the way I was living. I finally got it worked out. The rep then asked us to eat two Smarties and do the exercise again. What? That exercise was hard, but the point was clear. These are the types of choices people have to make when working for minimum wage. 

So, why do so many people who work for minimum wage or don’t work at all have new shoes, nice clothes, new cell phones, cable, etc? They don’t think the same way as most of us. Most of us have a future, we see our future. We have goals. We have hope. What kind of hope do you have making $15,000/yr when you have so many expenses? If you come out ahead one month do you think about putting it in a savings account? Can you even get a savings account?

The number one interest for persons who live around the poverty line is entertainment. For those of us with money, it’s savings. There is a difference in thinking. People want to belong and if that means they spend money on a cool phone instead of saving, that’s what they’ll do. We want to be like those around us. If you are living in government housing and go to school with those even a bit more affluent, you want to be like them. We all do things in order to belong. It’s just not as obvious or judged when the person has means. 

I used to be so black and white about things. It was easy, until something that I thought was black and white proved it could be gray. That opened up a whole new world for me. Things weren’t as black and white. I had to start asking myself hard questions and give myself real answers, from the heart. It was hard. I was no longer who I thought I was. I was no longer who others thought I was. There was actually freedom in that.  




2 Comments leave one →
  1. November 1, 2012 3:18 am

    Reblogged this on Hopeful and commented:
    Some good observations! This reminds me of the wonderful book by Adam Hamilton, Hamilton,

  2. January 25, 2013 7:16 pm

    I’m glad you liked it. (I’m so sorry I’ve not told you before now.)

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