Saturday, February 6, 2010

Homeless and Friendship

This is a story that I have been in many ways intimidated to tell. It is a story that has taken a week or so to process.
I stopped in Monterey Bay on one of very few sunny days in "Sunny California" during this trip. I was hoping to take along walk on the beach, maybe read some of my book, and just relax before I had to find a place to sleep for the night. When out of no where I was selected by two very excited sandy paws. I was the new friend of Bella. She greeted me and introduced me to her two legged companion Ashley. Ashley was disapproving of Bella's methodology but was soon fine when she realized I was too a dog lover. I continued on with my walk and on my way back Bella requested another petting. Ashley and I began to talk about travelling and some small talk. The conversation was pleasant and then I was invited to sit a bit. As our conversation went on Ashley told me that she had been homeless since she was 13 years-old. This was nearly 10 years of scrounging for food, moving from place to place, sleeping in all types of elements. I could not pretend to understand, so I didn't try. I just listened to her story. She wasn't telling me in a way to make me feel sorry for her she was just sharing her story as if I were a friend. And I wasn't listening as someone trying to fix her or help, I was listening like a friend.
She shared stories of drugs, riding rail, panhandling, spending time in jail, sleeping in parks, being unable to find work, and being in a perpetual state of pulling her head out of her ass. As the stories unfolded I started to become more intimately aware of a system that we know to be broken. Most of us simply bitch about it, others find careers in it, and many actually live in that system.
We talk of boot straps and pass around the blame like the worlds problems is big game of hot potato. But to Ashley and Bella it is right there everyday.
Ashley had a boyfriend Richard they had been together for a year. He had also been homeless for about 10 years. Together they told me of "acts of charity" by some that where motivated by some sex fantasy. They also talked about the homeless shelters being full and they would have to sleep outside but when found by Johnny law, they would sometimes be ticketed and their sleeping bags and traps would be confiscated and held as evidence of their crime. Ashely talked about how people often look down on her because she has a dog. But she said that it is a scary and unsafe way to live and Bella provides a great deal of protection for her.
I felt so fortunate that they befriended me. I gave them a ride north to San Mateo, CA. I did it because I really enjoyed the conversations and the companionship. On the way north, they wanted me to stop in Santa Cruz. They said it was a really neat place and worth seeing. They took me to the wharf there and showed me the sea lions. But I saw another side of Santa Cruz. I got the homeless tour. They told me great things about the city and I was shocked that they knew many people there. They were supportive of one another and gave each other tips on how to get food. I watched Richard eat left over food from trash cans and ask passersby for their leftovers. This was just normal life for them.
I will not venture to say that this was a good experience in the good and bad since of things. And I do not tell this story as a light hearted silly adventure that I have had. This was a moment along my journey that I was humbled even more. I am honored to have had the opportunity to share an experience with them. And when I am bitching about the rain, loneliness, and parking issues I do think of how fortunate I am to have what I have. I think we all just do what we can and live the best we know how with the tools we have available to us.

1 comment:

  1. That's a great story. I'd like to hear more about it when we talk. Thanks for sharing!

    - Leah