A first step

I’d intended to share pics of iceboats this weekend at the river or maybe to celebrate the snow that’s been falling all day, but instead…

This story has been heavy on my mind and heart all day. The victim was nameless when the story first went to press this morning, but later in the day he was identified and I recognized a connection to one of my clients and before the workday ended I found myself meeting with a policeman to share next of kin information.


I’m bothered by the things I left unsaid last week in my rant about the homeless. I spoke mostly from a place of frustration, rather than from that place in me that works everyday with the poor and that sees the things they really lack.

A job, a home, a purpose to their day… society can provide for those things in some form or another, but…

There’s no way to counter the lack of a loving family to go home to or someone that smiles just to see you come in.

There’s no way to replicate the feel of a warm-mittened hand in yours on the walk home from school.

There’s no way to know what a kiss in the morning, coffee brewing and the newspaper waiting might do.

I’m not foolish enough to believe that love is the only answer. I know enough about the circumstances that lead people to find themselves in this situation. I understand about addiction and mental illness and the kinds of holes in a person’s spirit that a job or a handout can’t fill.

But we can try, can’t we? To take better care of the people we love? To look out for our neighbor? To hand over a dollar or two for the man begging outside the coffee shop, without worrying that he’ll use it, instead, to buy a bottle?

The need is overwhelming to those of us who stop to consider it, rather than just shutting down, or shutting it out entirely. It’s easy to forget, I think, that the answer needn’t be yes or no, all or nothing.

It’s painful to see the need of others; even more painful to be helpless to fix it. Admitting to that is the first step, I think.

12 thoughts on “A first step”

  1. I give you grief, but you’ve a good heart. 🙂

    Money cannot cure some gasping wounds of the soul. Sometimes, nothing can. And as a society, we do not handle vagaries of the human condition well.

  2. Most people do not understand the complexities you describe, the generations of dysfunction, the mental illness. These people have always been present in society and human kindness, not judgement is often what they need. A very thought provoking post Laura.

  3. Your commentary reminded me of an article I found on the web of the Ithaca homeless group documentary called The Jungle.

    It has reminded me, as many issues remind me of late, the need for living wage jobs and affordable housing. Living in a society where our basic needs require money requires a source for earning money. And yet, we continue to lose jobs as well as cutbacks on services. Living in tents may be a temporary solution in a warmer climate or for our region, if it were Summer and we were at a campsite with some basics such as toilets and showers.

    I thank you so very much for sharing these issues and many thank yous for your understanding and compassion.

  4. I heard your frustration from last weeks post as a response to the whole situation — not at any one person.

    This is what I meant earlier, when I said that the people who “fall through the cracks” are those that lack a strong community of support. You said it much better here.

    Wayne, PA

  5. I am so sorry for your pain.

    When I read that article (I am local too), I am ashamed to say I could not even process the reality of the person who had died. When I allow myself to feel, I am bombarded by the images of cold, dark, lonliness, suffering, isolation that these people experience every minute of the day.

    I am grateful for the [ever more] tenuous place I have in society and the resources I have to keep me from his fate. I am grateful for the people who work with the disenfranchised, people like you, and who do more than I do on a daily basis.

  6. “..a purpose to their day” I think that says it all. Since my retirement, I have come to realize how much that means. Not that I am comparing my retirement with the desolation felt by the homeless, but it has made me more aware.

  7. What a knowing and loving post, Laura. Once again, thank goodness we have a few people like you.

    Call me a dreamer, but maybe we could try going back to ‘poor farms.’ Even the Shakers used to take poor people in in the winter. A farm could provided a safe place to live, a job, food, and a group of people united in a common goal. It would not be family, it might not be love, but it would be a whole lot better than a city doorway.

  8. To come face to face with this sadness every day must be difficult, Laura. Listening to the local news for 30 minutes in the evening is hard enough… To know these people as you do, almost intimately, must weigh you down sometimes.


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