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Humanity

July 14, 2018

He pushed it away, enraged and screaming incoherent insults, that I couldn't make out as I ran back into the warm car.

 

We had just left a Spoken word/ folk music event at Harbourfront and were driving back home on what was one of the coldest day in Toronto. It must have been -25 degrees Celsius. At the red light I witnessed a man sleeping on University street on the right hand side. Without thinking I grabbed the blanket that covered my speakers (that I now hid since the originals were stolen - the thieves had shattered my windows to take them and not knowing what to do, I called 911. I know). In any case, since then, I used an old blanket to cover my speakers. It was this blanket that I ran over, freezing, to put over the sleeping man.

 

He was so angry. He threw it off and I saw it in sort of a slow motion arc as it flew off his shoulders into a pile of slushy snow. I left it, thinking maybe the weather will eventually override his  pride or whatever it was he was feeling.

 

Alicia, a girl I was driving home, was killing herself laughing. I never understood why.

 

In Canada, I know there are social services that help the homeless and there are places to sleep, to eat, to have mental health support.

 

When I moved to France, I had no idea and so it wasn't clear what support, if any, the homeless  those who begged in front of bakeries and churches were given. According to the Salvation Army in France, 'in generally people begging in Paris tend to fall into four categories: people who are on very low incomes and struggling to make ends meet, addicts, or people from eastern Europe, who are sometimes seen using child slaves, or others who pose as Syrian refugees.'

 

There is support - through charities who house and feed the homeless: AURORE, Croix Rouge, Le Foyer de Grenelle, Les Petits Frères des Pauvres, Secours Populaire, La Petite Rockette and Secours Catholique.

 

The truth is we don't know why one is homeless and why one needs to beg. Personally, I don't think we are as far away as we think from our privileged perches to being at the mercy of the kindness of strangers.

 

So, I have decided to donate to Secours Catholique in my beloved Valerie's name and carry some extra fruit to give to those I pass on my way during the day. That way, I don't have to be held at bay wondering if I am supporting child slavery or some mafia. And I will respond with a warm bonjour to those whose whose situation I cannot even begin to fathom. Because I am ashamed to admit it but my guilt has not allowed me to do that. Now, I just walk fast or cross the street or look straight ahead.

 

Fuck guilt.

 

And hello humanity.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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