Friday, July 27, 2012

I Can Make A Difference

My day started kind of meh.  I figured out that Mount Vernon Road wasn't going to be closed, so I drove to the office instead of riding my bike.  It was only mildly stressful trying to navigate my way through the thousands of cyclists heading out of town for RAGBRAI.  (It was actually kind of cool seeing them all jazzed up to bike 40 miles to Anamosa; now I want to do RAGBRAI some year.)  After I got to work, things started to head downhill fast when I couldn't get lists to cut right and every volunteer I called was mumbling some bullshit about not actually being able to volunteer.  I wasn't going to get the minimum 100 calls I needed for the day and without volunteers, there were thousands I had to make solo in the coming weeks.  (I know 100 phone calls per day isn't bad, but it is when you despise talking on the phone and that is all you have done all week.)

After breaking down, crying, and stopping myself from demolishing my computer, I went home for some lunch and to gear up for the Benton County Fair.  I avoided driving myself into a ditch on the way there, but not without significant amounts of road rage and throwing my arms around.

Once I parked my car, I sat for a minute and tried to regain my composure.  Which is good because I had to walk by the Benton County Republicans to get to the Benton County Democrats booth.  I didn't make eye contact because I probably would have punched one of them.  At the booth, things were ok.  I actually love talking with candidates running for county and state office.  They are always pumped up and feisty.  (Not that candidates running for federal office aren't.  I just see county and state candidates significantly more.)  Afterwards, I stopped to pick up my traditional Subway sandwich on my way out of Vinton (mileage and expenses are paid if I leave the Linn County!) and got on the road.

All was fine on the drive home.  I took my normal exit, but I accidentally turned before I really should have.  I do that a lot; Cedar Rapids is confusing like that. 

There is this one on-ramp in Cedar Rapids that almost always has a homeless person sitting at it, and as always, when I drove by tonight, there was someone sitting there.

I lost it again.

Tears swelled in my eyes.  I wanted that person to have a safe home and food in their belly.  The only thing I thought I had to offer was my Subway sandwich and the half-eaten bag of chips, so I turned around (not an easy thing to do with the wonky design of Cedar Rapids) and asked if she wanted it.  The smile on her face and "Yes, thank you!" were possibly the most genuine I have seen or heard in a long time. 

The mix of emotions was profound- terribly sad that homelessness and poverty have to exist (especially in a country that prides itself on opportunity and high level of development), relief that I know she will be eating something tonight, and embarrassment at what I considered to be a terrible day.

When I got home, I realized that I had also had an apple in my backpack, and I wished I had offered it as well.  I am going to start carrying a small bag of snacks whenever I take that ramp.  It is almost guaranteed that someone will be on that corner, and I will hand whoever is there my snacks.  I really don't need them.

This has been one of the most emotionally exhausting days I have had in quite some time, and I think one of the most emotionally exhausting of all time.  But only because I realized that I can make a difference.  Even if it is only in one persons life.

If you want to learn more about homelessness in the US and programs designed to aid the homeless, you can visit the United States Interagency Council on homelessness website.  There are also tons of programs that function on the local level to mitigate homelessness and poverty.

Peace and Love

No comments:

Post a Comment