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Home Sweet Home

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Home Sweet Home

            I first saw her as I was rushing to work.  She was in an ally digging in the dumpster.  I didn’t take the time to give her much thought, as I hurried to make sure I wasn’t late again.  I had seen lots of homeless people where I had grown up and I had learned to become immune to their struggles.  I hurried into work and when my boss greeted me by saying telling me it was a good thing I had made it on time or I would have been fired, I forgot all about the young woman in the ally behind the restaurant.

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            I spent the evening working in the restaurant as I did most nights during the week.  As I was getting ready to throw out the left over food from the buffet, the girl I had seen on my way to work entered my mind again.  The food was still good, but we were not supposed to serve it after twenty minutes on the buffet table.

  I knew I could get in trouble for what I was about to do, but instead of throwing the food away, I decided to take it to see if she was still in the area somewhere.  It just seemed a waste to throw good food away when people were forced to look through trash cans for food.  I filled two large to go plates and put them in a bag, and walked out the door before my boss realized I hadn’t thrown the food away.

            I looked around the area to see if she was sleeping somewhere nearby, but I couldn’t find her.  Every logical bone in my body told me at that point to go home, because it was dark and wandering around in the city at night was never a wise thing to do.  However, the logical side of my brain was rarely what I acted upon.  After all I had risked being fired to sneak food out for this woman; the least I could do was try to find her.  I walked cautiously towards the railroad bridge, because I knew a lot of homeless people had tents in that area.  As I left what was considered to be the “safe” part of town and got closer to the less desirable area, the logical part of my brain again began to question what I was doing.  Where I was going was not safe to go alone during the day and definitely not at night.  I told myself I didn’t even know what she looked like well enough to recognize her and my family would kill me if I managed to get home alive.  I walked a few more steps, and was about ready to turn around and go home, when I saw her.

            She was huddled beside a large cardboard box, and had a small fire burning in front of her.  I’m not sure how I recognized her instantly in the dark after I had only caught a quick glimpse of her several hours before, but when I saw her, I had no doubt she was the person I was looking for.  She had a tattered blanket wrapped around her and she seemed lost in thought as I cautiously approached her.  I had never done anything like this before and I couldn’t believe I was doing as I crept slowly closer to her.  As I approached her and she still had not moved or looked at me to acknowledge my presence, I began to wonder if something was wrong with her.  When I was directly in front of her and only a couple feet away, she suddenly jumped in surprise and screamed, startling me enough to make me nearly drop the food I had brought.

            “Who are you and what do you want?” She demanded, seeming almost as territorial of her property as someone who owned a mansion.

            “Uh, I’m, uh I work at the restaurant whose dumpsters you were looking through earlier, and…”

            “Oh, what you gonna bust me now or something for taking your trash?” She said defensively.

            “No, I just thought you might be hungry and brought you some left-overs.  You don’t have to take it, but it’s better than what you’d get out of the dumpster,” I said.

            “You makin fun of me?” She asked.

            “No,” I said holding out the food.  “I just thought it seemed like a shame to throw away perfectly good food, when people were hungry.  If you don’t want it though, I can find someone who does.”

            “I’ll take it.” She said, as she reached out to grab the food from my hands.  She hurried back over to sit down beside her box and opened the food boxes.  She looked at them cautiously then sniffed it as if she didn’t trust me.  After she apparently decided it was satisfactory, she started eating and hovering over the boxes as if she hadn’t eaten for along time and was afraid someone would take the food from her.  When she finally was satisfied enough to take a break, she looked up and appeared surprised to discover I was still there.

            “You shouldn’t be here you know.  It’s dangerous here at night, especially for rich people from the other side of town.”  She said.

            “I’m not rich, I bus tables,” I said.

            “You have a job and a home, right?” She asked.

            “Yeah,” I answered.

            “Around here, that makes you rich, so go back to your nice safe little neighborhood.  Where nice safe little people are supposed to live,” She stated.

            “Then why are you here?” I returned.

            “I don’t have anywhere else to go,” she answered.  “Thank you for the food, now you need to get out of here.”

            “How did you end up here?” I asked.

            “Just because I took your food doesn’t mean I want to tell you all of my secrets or bare my soul to you.  We aren’t friends.” She said.

            “Okay, sorry for the intrusion,” I said feeling that my thoughtfulness was unappreciated.  I turned to walk away, but when I glanced back and saw a satisfied smile on her face instead of the sadness I had seen when I arrived.  That was all I needed to realize my gift had been appreciated.

            I found a cab as soon as I could and returned to my “nice safe little world” as she had put it.  When I got home my family members all wanted to know why I was so late.  I didn’t want them to know where I actually had been, so I made up a story about having to work late.  I had to work late sometimes, so they didn’t question me.

            I thought that once I had done my good deed, I would have been able to forget about the homeless girl by the bridge in her cardboard box, but somehow I couldn’t.  I began a regular routine of saving out some of the left over food from the buffet and taking it to her.  She slowly began to trust me a little and began to warm up to me.  Eventually she let me sit down and join her while she ate and talked to me.

            Over the course of that winter, I learned her name was Marcy.  She had spent several years in foster care, but then when she turned eighteen, she was no longer allowed to live in a foster home.  She was simply turned out of the home she had lived in for nearly ten years.  She had a part time job at the time, but it wasn’t enough to pay for an apartment.  She had tried various youth shelters, but none of them worked out and she couldn’t get a job at eighteen that would cover the bills.  Eventually she just gave up trying to earn money and started living on the streets and on handouts.  She had managed to survive for over two years on the streets, which she indicated was a great accomplishment, since most street people either ended up dead or in institutions within a year.

            The more I learned about her past and current lifestyle, the more upset I became about a system that turned unprepared eighteen year olds out onto the street.  I was close to her age and knew that if I didn’t have my family I would be in as bad of shape as she was.  I knew that if the average lifespan on the streets was around a year and Marcy had been on the streets over two years, she needed to get off the streets or she was in real danger of not surviving long.  She didn’t seem to think it was a problem and seemed to have grown comfortable with her lifestyle.  She didn’t like asking for handouts and was very proud of herself that she rarely had to ask for help.  She thought of herself as very independent and self sufficient.  She was very offended if she thought someone felt sorry for her.  She said she got by okay, but she never turned down the food I brought to her and eventually she even went so far as to tell me thank you when I brought the food and told me she appreciated the company.

            Any time I expressed concern about her safety, she would proudly announce that she was doing fine.  She said that in the two years she had been living on the streets she had stayed off drugs, was not a prostitute and rarely had to resort to anything illegal to get by.  Although I was proud of her for that, I wanted to get her off the streets.  I didn’t know why I had become so involved in her life, but once I had become involved, I couldn’t just walk away even though she told me I needed to stay out of her neighborhood and I needed to stop getting her food that could get me into trouble at work.  I knew that in order to protect myself I should let her go back to taking care of herself, but she had become more to me than just a homeless person I was helping.  She had become a friend and I didn’t want to see her get into any kind of trouble.

            I decided to make it my personal mission to get her off the streets even if she didn’t seem to think she needed to leave them.  I checked with my boss to find out if there were any waitress or bussing openings at the restaurant, which he assured me there were none.  He then proceeded to tell me he knew I had been sneaking out food and that he had followed me to see what I had been doing with it.  He said that he had seen me with the homeless girl and that I needed to be careful about getting involved in that world, because it could lead to a lot of trouble.

            I asked him why other people couldn’t get involved and do something to solve the problem.  He said that no one could feed all of the homeless people and for that reason I needed to be careful not to lead other people to the door of his restaurant looking for food handouts.  I said that I had been careful and that no one else had asked me for any yet.  He said they better not or not only would I have to find another job, I would be paying for the meals he had to give away.

            I assured him not to worry about it because I would be getting her off the streets as soon as possible.  He returned by asking how I planned to do that on my salary.  I said that I would be helping her find a job and an affordable place to live.  I knew that it wouldn’t be easy for me to get her off the streets since she had been unable to do it.  I had one advantage that she didn’t have.  I had a great family who supported me through every good and bad choice I made.  They would never have abandoned me to survive on my own before I was ready without any support.  I wanted Marcy to know that she no longer had to be alone.

            It took me six months to help her find a job, but she did finally get a job working in a small café during the lunch hour.  This did not allow her to make enough money to pay rent every month, and could not immediately get her off the streets.

            I finally decided to give an and tell my family about my new friend.  They were actually relived to find out that the reason I was late almost every night, was because I was helping someone rather than the negative habits they had been thinking I was doing.  They of course all lectured me for the danger I could have been in, but since I had already spent almost a year making regular trips to that neighborhood at night they weren’t going to stop me.  Eventually however they proposed a solution that would keep me out of the dangerous neighborhood and would get Marcy out of it as well.

            They decided to fix up a room above the garage where Marcy could stay rent free until she was able to get a better job and save enough money to pay for a real apartment.  At first Marcy was not willing to accept what she considered charity.  After a few weeks of coaxing from me and a visit from the other members of my family, she decided to accept on the condition that she could contribute money for groceries when she could.

            It turned out to be a great deal for all of us.  Marcy taught us to respect the needs of others and we provided her the opportunity to gain independence.  After two years of living above the garage, she got a good job in sales and was able to move out on her own.  She became the successful independent person she had wanted to be.  I learned that all people have value and should not just be discarded or ignored.  I knew that I would never be able to personally save all the homeless people in the world. But my efforts had helped one person have the opportunities she needed to get out of a bad situation.  I just wished there was some way to help more.


Cite this Home Sweet Home

Home Sweet Home. (2016, Oct 08). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/home-sweet-home/

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