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 SlushySnowwork­shop 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.

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6 Responses to the beginnings of compassion..

  1. Teresa says:

    What was the guys reac­tion when you gave him the blan­ket?

  2. Jordan says:

    He was appre­cia­tive, but it was mid­night so we didn’t real­ly get in to con­ver­sa­tion as he was half asleep when I arrived. I hope that a few kind words would help lift a guy’s spir­its but the ques­tion remains in my mind about whether I did enough, whether I could have or should have done more. At the end of the day, kind words and good­will are worth­less if he froze overnight. :0/

  3. Jennifer says:

    Oh Jor­dan, you did way more than most of us, most peo­ple walk by with­out actu­al­ly see­ing him, I mean of course we see him but don’t take the time to eval­u­ate the sit­u­a­tion or con­tem­plate help­ing him… Of course I think it’s ter­ri­ble that our lives are so “busy” that we don’t actu­al­ly look up any­more. But you did a real­ly good thing.

  4. Jordan says:

    Well, I think that’s my point real­ly, why is it that we don’t see the things that are right in front of our eyes? This applies not only to seem­ing­ly small sit­u­a­tions like the afore­men­tioned need for a blan­ket but to big­ger things like, ‘hey, we’re wreck­ing the plan­et’.. The sto­ries we tell our­selves have a won­der­ful way of jus­ti­fy­ing con­tin­u­a­tion of exist­ing behav­iour when it is clear­ly not the best course of action..

    If we dig a lit­tle fur­ther, the prob­lem with said home­less man is larg­er than just that he was cold for an evening. There is a major fail­ure of our social sys­tems that has allowed him to end up there. A por­tion of the pop­u­la­tion may very well point fin­gers and say ‘oh, well he’s not will­ing to work’ or ‘he choos­es to be there’ but at the end of the day, we don’t know because we’ve nev­er asked. I do know that we need to look at the sys­tem as a whole and fig­ure out why it’s not work­ing…

    So I guess, my aim with this post is not to elic­it a pat on the back, but to invoke oth­ers (and myself) to open their eyes and real­ly LOOK at what’s going on around them, then THINK about what can be done, and then DO it..

  5. Kali says:

    I’ve found that it’s both ter­ri­fy­ing and exhil­a­rat­ing to be point­ed­ly mind­ful con­cern­ing these sub­jects (and peo­ple). To think about this at all and to share it, though, is what we should *all* be doing, at very least.

  6. Jordan says:

    I couldn’t agree more! :)