I spent time this afternoon at the Dallas Main Street Garden City Park. At one end is a lovely fountain, the B and G letters, a café, games for children, joggers, people walking their dogs, and taking pictures of each other. At the other end under the trees with the flowers are the homeless people sitting on benches, leaning against the glistening green walls and sleeping, or sprawled out and reading bits of newspapers.
When I first parked there I waited on the sidewalk to enter my friend’s high-rise apartment. I was bringing lunch to her since she was recovering from surgery. I called and asked her if the park was safe to wait in, because I saw many homeless people near my car. She said the police patrol all over the park and it’s fine.
So …after our lunch I bought a glass of cabernet and sat to people-watch and soak up sun. The policeman loaned me a pen. I watched parents play with children and run through the fountain, but I kept thinking of the people on the other end.
After a while, I gave in, removed my nylons in the restroom (with no toilet paper), took off my shoes and waded in the fountain. I clicked photos of the shapes and shadows, posted on facebook and then dried my feet. As I looked down at my silver purse and polka dot-designer dress it felt wrong. I was on this end of the park enjoying the moment so much and on the other end were those struggling. Why is society this way…where some have enough and others are hungry? I watched a couple stop and chat with a sun-bronzed man and then shake his hand. Bronzed man went back to reading his paper.
What can I do? Shake a hand? I thought of the fight I witnessed a month earlier at another park–a frail woman struck by a robust man. That time I called 911. Frail lady said he hit her for a bottle of water that he claimed she stole from him.
I form a plan: As I walk to my car, I’ll take the path under the trees through the homeless people. I will find a soul who is very thin and that will be the person to whom I’ll hand this bag of leftovers.
I walked and felt calm, purposeful, safe but was I? Yes, police were there on bikes and on foot. I saw a gaunt man on a bench. I walked up to him. “How are you?”
“I’m doing okay, ma’am.” He straightened his back.
“Are you hungry, would you like some food?”
“Yes, ma’am I would.”
“Here’s some chicken pasta, bread, butter, and there’s a fork there.”
“Thank you, thank you very much!” He took the bag, smiled and nodded.
“Take care now.”
I felt good but yet I didn’t want to be thinking grandly of myself. The purple flowers swayed and birds chirped as I walked back to my car, past a couple with a child in a stroller. I looked away from them so they wouldn’t speak to me. I didn’t want people to think I did it to show off to the world that I was this benevolent person and collect praises. I just wanted to do it because I wanted to help one person not be hungry. Because I have a new job, and I have a pretty dress, and nice shoes, and he has nothing and an empty stomach and I don’t care if he does drugs or if he steals or whatever he is, today he is a hungry man and I have food.
I walked to my car and turned to look back. Gaunt man was digging in and eating. I felt his stomach stop growling. I felt that he thought that one person gave even before he begged. I sat in my car and didn’t move for a bit –just let the wind blow the hot air out of my car through open windows. When I got home I lay on my bed staring at the ceiling. I thought, what if some other stronger person beat the thin man and took his food from him!
Next time perhaps I will sit with the person while they eat and make sure they are safe
for a moment.