The other evening I came home late from work. I sent a text to M to find that him and D were already chilling at the Moo. D was chatting to himself and feeding the moo grass. M was bothered. Distracted. And it didn't seem work-related. Because that's a totally specific look. Dude, what's up? After a bit he finally pointed his eyes towards the corner. Where someone was pan handling. She's 20. Maybe. She's so, so young. Why is she there? How can we help?
Unfortunately, we've gotten pretty used to our intersection hosting a rotating cast of homeless folks asking for a few dollars. But M was right. This was someone we had never seen before. And she was a girl. I'm not even going to say a woman. This was a girl.
On the way home, I stopped and offered her sandwich. She was wary. Like, from where? Like, from my kitchen. I'm going to go make you one if you want it. Her eyes lit up and she said, oh that would be awesome! Then quickly added, if the cops come, I'll be over there with my boyfriend, who was on a bench nearby.
So I went up and packed a lunch, which was super easy to do since I've got supplies for baby D. Sandwich. Granola bars. Apples. Bananas. I figure she'd either open the bag and be like, what is this hippy shit? Or be grateful for some portable food items they could stash in their bags for whatever journey awaits.
I handed her the bag and wished her luck. And I meant it. And by the time I made it back to my door, she and her man had already dug into it.
Back at our place, at the dinner table, M was clearly still bothered. What makes someone leave? What happens in your life that you think the street is better than where you were?
I don't know the deal with our young temporary neighbors. I can't begin to know their stories. But I know in so many instances, the answer is Abuse. Physical. Sexual. Emotional. Not always, but more times than not. You leave because you aren't safe where you are. You leave because any place is better than there.
At least that's what brings most of the women to the shelter at the YWCA. In fact, I was just talking with some of them earlier in the week.
Every year, the YWCA hosts a First Responders breakfast to honor the police officers, the EMTs, the emergency response teams that go above and beyond their call of duty to get people safe. It's a pretty powerful event. I found myself sitting at a table having a lovely conversation with a woman who ended up being the speaker for the event. I had no idea she was an actual recipient of YWCA services until she took the stage and talked about her long road to recovery after decades of self-medicating and sexual abuse at the hands of a step-father.
Her words are still sitting with me.
So, when M said, I'm not sure we do enough. I had to agree. A sandwich and some food for that young woman was the least we could do. I am home. I am safe. I am safe and loved in my home. So what I am doing to make things better for someone who isn't?
I used to think the fact that I work for a non-profit gave me a free pass from other humanitarian work. It doesn't. That's the shit that pays me. I'm not giving any more than I'm getting back. It's not the same.
October is national domestic violence awareness month. And you know how I feel about awareness. It's not enough. So here are some activities happening in my 'hood. I bet there are ton happening around you too. Please feel free to share in the comments.
At the first responders breakfast, we were asked to think of 4 words that would say what WE are doing to end domestic violence. Here were mine:
Listen. Support. Embrace. Empower.
What would your four be?
Wonderful post! I've been in these situations too and it's really difficult to know in the moment what the right thing to do is. Thank you for bringing awareness to this issue!
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