Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Sleeping on the Streets and Other Problems in the World (or at least my world)

The time was 8:00 on a recent Tuesday morning. I had just recently met with a man for coffee about getting a free massage on the weekends. I hadn't had breakfast that day, and I was hungry, so I ordered a muffin. Chocolate. It was the only kind the coffee shop had left, one of those Costco-sized muffins. I'm on the Weight Watchers program, so I used a technique that I had learned a couple weeks back, and I only ate half of the muffin. After the meeting, I was biking back to campus for my first class of the day, when I saw the most depressing and yet touching sight. In front of a Methodist church, I saw a lump. As I got closer, I realized that the lump was made of collapsed cardboard, a tarp, some backpacks, a dog, and two people. The people had dreadlocks, and were covered with the tarp. They were facing the church, so I couldn't see there faces, and as I passed, I felt horrible for the couple. You see, I know what it's like to sleep on the streets. I did it one night as part of an empathy-instilling exercise at a service project centered around helping the homeless. I know what it's like to wake up to dew all over your blanket, and to be cold and sore because you used your shirt for a pillow in an attempt to get more comfortable. I know what it's like to walk around town looking for food and maybe some cans that you can trade in for money, and I know what it's like to serve people who live like this for months or years. I was actually one of those people when I was younger. My mother and I stayed in a homeless shelter, and oftentimes lived with friends from church while I went to school and my mother went to work to try and make enough to get back on her feet. I was young, so I didn't see a lot of the struggles we had, but I do remember the cold showers in the morning before school while we were staying in the shelter, and the Pop Tarts that we ate because there was no place to store food or cook in the shelter. Luckily, we were only there for two weeks.
Remembering how hard it was to complete the simple task on the scavenger hunt (part of the simulation) of asking for a quarter, I stopped a little ways away. I was planning on eating the rest of that muffin a little later. I was still hungry! Then I thought about how hungry the two sleeping on the church stoop probably were, and realized I didn't need it as much as they did. I had lunch to look forward to, and lunch was guaranteed for me. It wasn't for them. Maybe they didn't even know when their next meal would be. I got off my bike, pulled out a piece of paper, and wrote a little encouraging note, then tip-toed over to the couple and their dog, setting the muffin on a corner of their makeshift bed.
I feel like I could do so much more for them and others in the same situation. I feel like I have the money to do it, but I'm being stingy and putting myself through school first. I suppose one can only do so much.

On another, more self-centered note, I'm trying to decide what to do about the clash between my job, and my theatre major requirements. I get paid in free room and board, I'm taking six credits, technically speaking (I'm auditing 1.5 credits), I have to work at least ten hours a week at my work study job to be able to afford to go to school here next year, and that leaves the evenings for homework (this means that I'm multi-tasking because when I am at home in the evenings, I am at the beck and call of the woman I work for. I jump when she says jump. And it's rough. We don't see eye-to-eye on a lot of things, and it's extremely stressful and hard. For instance, M.S. is pissed off because we run out of the short forks easily, and she has to use another, different kind of short fork, and it interrupts the continuity that she's had all her life, so she gets upset. Like throwing a fit will get you what you want. "Why do we keep having this kind of fork every night? I want one of the regular forks! Why don't we have any of the regular forks?" and on and on. Now add this to the stress of being in trouble with the theatre department because I forgot to look at my production calender, and therefore JUST found out that I have to miss a mandatory meeting for all majors, minors, and scholarship-holders because I'm scheduled to work, and you have a basketcase, ladies and gentlemen. A real life, walking and talking basketcase. So, needless to say, I'm rethinking my job and my theatre major and trying to find the best of both worlds, and unfortunately, I'm not superwoman, because if I was, I would do it all. I offered a proposal to the faculty to see what they think, and hopefully, they'll buy it. I'm praying that they buy it, because if they don't, my life plans will need to be altered. Again.