January 2, 2006

my neighbors

I started this blog as a New Year's resolution to journal my thoughts/reflections more often... here it goes..
Tonight I was on the trolley home from work. I was tired and when I get tired, I think about the most obscure things. Tonight I realized that I feel like I'm in a music video when I'm riding home, I have my iPod in my ears, my elbow on the window, and I find myself staring out the window at the San Diego coast. Lights blur as the train speeds up, the music is familiar and I relax for my 20 minute ride. It's all very poetic until I get interrupted. Interruptions are a common occurence because the downtown trolley is full of homeless people- and homeless people, I've come to find are very lonely. Normally I don't mind interruptions, I can enjoy a fun conversation with a complete stranger, but I find myself being selfish for my 'music video moment'.
A young homeless man saw me take a drink of my bottled water and tapped me on the shoulder. I took out my headphones and made eye contact. With a near-toothless grin he asked if he could buy my 2/3 empty water. No one is going to barter a 1/3 bottle of water and name a price.. of course I handed him the bottle. He grinned and said 'Thank You'. Immediately he finished off the bottle, put his feet on the seat and fell asleep. He held the bottle tightly like a greedy man would hold a bar of gold. What would it be like to get to that point that you ask for a used bottle of water?
Now that I live in downtown San Diego, I'm faced with the realization of poverty more often. This morning as I ran to the Little Italy trolley stop in the rain, I slipped on and did an ever-so-graceful slide followed by a full fall on the sidewalk. It's in those situations that you have to laugh at yourself. I pictured my mother at my side with one arm in the air, shaking her head, and exclaiming, "Seven yeeeeeaaaaars of balllllllet!" (Yes, I was in ballet from the ages of 5-12, performed in the Nutcracker every year and it did nothing for my posture or grace. Ballet's expensive and I feel bad that she spent so much money for 7 years with no improvement. I try to sit up straight around her and walk like a ballerina, but this is unnatural and awkward for me, so I trip more often in her presence and she always catches the slouched shoulders. Every single time, without fail, she says, "Seven years of ballet!" with a long dramatic announcer voice. It's funny to behold.) When I passed that same spot of my fall, I was prepared to chuckle at myself, but instead a young homeless woman lay asleep in the same spot, under a wet awning in the rain. That's not funny, so I didn't laugh.
I feel like I'm coming across that I'm inconvienced by my homeless neighbors- like they took away my 'moment' or my 'laugh'. That's not it at all. What I struggle with is how I'm supposed to respond to their need. It's complicated because I walk through the streets alone at night and my interaction is sometimes daily. Maybe I'll find out their shelter/soup kitchen schedule and help out that way?

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