I live a couple of blocks from the 294 now, so I pass under the bridge of the overpass everytime I walk or drive away. During the summer the homeless folks have wonderful little campsites set up. They appear happy and mingle together in their own little neighborhood. I imagine them sharing stories of the lives from which they came and their hopes and dreams. Their beds are tidily made and their "homes" are in order. Just like I love trailers, I find these handmade habitats some kind of romantic. When I was a little girl I dreamed of being a hobo, riding the rails and heating up cans of stew on campfires.
But now it's cold, the temperature is dropping daily and the rain has been heavy. Last night there was a man walking down my street with a shopping cart full of soggy...stuff. I don't know what kind of stuff, and even though he tried to cover it with large black garbage bags it looked wet and sad. I wondered and worried that there was no way for him to dry it out in this weather. Folks in the handmade Bridge Neighborhood turn in much earlier these days, I'm guessing to get warm. I'm praying not because they are so hungry they just want to sleep and not feel their bellies grumbling. And blankets are coming out. And it touches my heart and soul because you know people are caring and bringing blankets by. Several fluffy, white comforters; I see the jacquard comforter I asked Shannon and Isaac to drop by, draped over someone curled up in the fetal position of sleep. There was a woman handing out what looked like burritos wrapped in tin foil from the trunk of her car. I don't know Chicago all that well, but it seems to me that the "law" is very tolerant in the face of need. And the folks living under the bridge are doing so respectfully. It's clean under there. And I see people talking with each other and smiling. I have yet to see even one drunk and disorderly situation.
I feel embarassed when I catch myself being the Looky Loo. But I am taken by this living situation. I wonder what I can do and where the boundaries of human respect lie. If I did this would I offend? If I did that, would I be negligent? I don't know. And I don't know where to find out. I always look an obvious homeless person in the eye and offer a smile in passing, but I never strike up conversation. Should I? I always have a question in my head of proper action. The other night I walked the dog up to Chipotle for a burrito bowl to go. While walking home I thought to myself, if someone asks me for money I'm going to give them this hot meal. No one asked but would that have been appropriate if I did? What if I started eating it and didn't feel hungry so took it to go? Would offering that be appropriate? If I have an extra 10 bucks do I give it to the first person who asks or do I get 10 ones, or do I go to McDonalds and buy 10 one buck hamburgers to share? If I don't eat McDonalds do I offer it to the folks *I* think are hungry?
I tell myself I think too much and I should just follow my gut. But, my full, content, digesting gut just doesn't know the answer.