I spent the day chasing around Calgary, making busy in the blowing snow (yes, snow at the end of April). After two day long appointments came and went, and I returned home from a third, impromptu photography workshop I realized that I’d an evening commitment for a birthday celebration. Mind still buzzing from the day, I hopped into the car and headed downtown.
By the time I reached my destination, giant slushy flakes of snow were blowing sideways down the alleyway and I huddled deep in to my jacket trying to isolate myself from the biting wind as much as possible.. As I rounded the final corner, I noticed a man huddled in a dry corner under an overhang and made the deliberate choice to walk past him with enough distance between us to deter any conversation about spare change. I noted my choice and promptly set it to the back of my mind as my priority shifted to getting out of the sloppy wetness raining from the sky.
After three hours of wonderful conversation a few drinks, a shared plate of poutine, and a piece of chocolate cake that I didn’t need but really wanted, we all parted ways and I returned to my car past the same huddled man who by this time was laying down curled up to stave off the near freezing temperatures.
For the first time in years I found myself not just walking by but actually putting myself in to his situation. Not out of guilt or any obligation but because it felt like the right thing to do.. I felt completely panicked by the prospect of spending the night out there uncovered and unprotected and as I walked back to the car I pondered my options and finally settled on digging out a fleece blanket that I’d been using to cover my equipment when it sits in the back of the car..
I felt a range of emotions sweep through me and was surprised by how many related to my attachment to a blanket. It was expensive, it was mostly serving a purpose, what was I going to replace it with? Then I contemplated whether one of the two emergency sleeping bags in the back would have been a better option. They were about the same price, but might have been better options. But then I need them for an upcoming camping trip. But do I need both?
As I arrived home I wandered through the empty house and contemplated why I wouldn’t have just offered this guy a place to sleep that was warm and dry. I have plenty of space, and extra bed and plenty of hot water. The obvious answer is rooted in safety, my own personal, and the security of my stuff, electronics, cameras, personal effects etc.. I’ve pondered this evening, the limitations of stuff and whether my decision would have been different had I nothing worth stealing kept in the house. That led me to wondering why I would immediately consider someone homeless a threat.
My only conclusion at this point is that this whole scenario is messed up. I need to reevaluate my own values and consider what is really most important. I’m near certain right now that the ‘stuff’ will not win out in the reconciliation.