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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

No Frills

Yesterday I stopped at the No Frills on my way home. It was a beautiful day, sun high in the sky, an awesome view of the harbour from the parking lot. I felt grateful. I just wanted to get some black beans for a recipe I was making. As I drove over the perfectly smooth new pavement I decided that I might also get some Chapman's vanilla frozen yogurt. That would be a treat, I deserved a treat. Yes, beans and ice cream. That's all I needed, Quick and easy, in and out.

As I approached the store I saw a grimy young man sitting down on the pavement right next to the entrance, cardboard sign in hand, big black block letters with decorative red stripes inside each letter of the words "Travelling" "Hungry" & "Anything will help". He was wearing black boots, jeans and a green army type jacket . God he must be hot, I thought as I passed by him saying hello to the skinny boxer mix laying on the pavement next to him, her head on the young man's crossed legs as he leaned up against the building, a small tattered back pack on the cement next to him.

It is worthy of note to say we are not used to seeing this sort of thing in our area. Everything/one here has a place, a history, a purpose. Most people can speel off someone's family history in an instant. An unknown is potentially also an unwelcome.

I have seen this guy before, or someone who looks like him holding a similar, but not so pretty sign at the intersection near the bridge during the busy traffic times, minus the dog. It was easy to ignore that guy though, easy to just drive by and not even look at him. For some reason, the young man at No Frills was not as easy to ignore. He was there, in front of me as I walked by. He seemed more real. He was young, and intelligent looking. He had kind eyes with which I got eye contact as he rubbed his dog's back.

As I rushed to the bean section I pondered how this person might have come to this point in his life. I had an internal dialogue that brought me to a place where I wondered if this man was just doing some kind of social experiment. Nah I decided, why would ya?

Most people just walked by him like he wasn't even there. I couldn't. Suddenly I found myself searching for food that might work for this person who was "travelling". I travelled once, but it wasn't called that. I was like a frantic mother getting last minute things for their child who was going on a road trip. Displaced that a thing? Hmmm, lunchables...well, I wouldn't buy those for myself, but it could work for a "travelling " man and it has protein...sort of. Yes, lunchables...and something for the dog, but not a can that requires an opener or storage. A V8 for him maybe...and oh something for fun...chocolate and some cheesies. What is wrong with me? Lets throw in some YOP and some cold water.

Za...are you nuts? Perhaps this man is in this position because of his own bad choices, maybe he is a rebel, just lazy, a criminal, a druggie? Either way I felt it worth the risk. All I had to lose was a few dollars after all. Maybe it could help...or maybe I would lose 10 bucks and feel a bit foolish...but maybe... just maybe it could help for a second at least.

So I packaged up a few things and passed them to him on the way out. NO FRILLS ATTACHED. I told him there was something for the dog and I asked the dog's name. "That's Gina", he said. I stooped down, petted her and talked to her a while. She seemed happy, tail wagging. He thanked me. I left, and on the way , my window wide open, I heard him digging in the bag saying, "Oh look what you got!" as he pulled out one of the dog food packages and fed it to Gina right away. His tone was the same I might use with my own dog. He looked up and mouthed thank you, I nodded as I drove away. Gina's long skinny tail was frantically wagging as she devoured her dinner.

I realized I had forgotten the beans.

The next day in the staff room I heard people say things about the guy at the No Frills. "They should have made him leave." "I don't need to see that" "He should get a job" "How can he have a dog?" " I wouldn't give him anything" "Sometimes those people just have dogs so people will approach them" Etc...etc...
I said nothing. I found myself wanting to defend him though, but I was silent.

I asked the dogs name, but I didn't think to ask his. Hope his "travels" are going well and he reaches his destination on time and in tack. I asked the dog's name...but I didn't ask his ... I asked the dog's name...


Downtown Doug said...

I too have done the same “pass by” viewing and pretend not to notice, only to give a brief thought to ‘maybe I should…’ but then let the distance and time reducing the guilt of my inhumanity. Yup, judge-n-go all in one easy motion. I notice the dogs, but tag them as being the ‘lure’ for sympathy and goodies.. or so I tell myself.
Sometimes I see them as rebelling against the world and being ‘homeless by choice’ rather than just being homeless. I find that easier to digest. I don’t want to imagine them being my kids. My kids would NEVER be like that if they had the choice, as far as I know. I wonder how they’re doing off in Montreal and Fort Mac?

Anonymous said...

You have such a pure heart, Za. Love the way you see the world and your compassion and thoughtfulness. Your post is a good reminder that we can make a positive difference just by being ourselves and doing what feels right to us (so what if he is a druggie or a criminal perchance?). There are some guys downtown who ask for "spare change" pretty often. I always make eye contact, smile, and say "Sorry, no." And one of them said, "God Bless you and your beautiful blue eyes!" Give and the world gives back, in so many ways. :-) Thanks for the inspiration.