WHO ARE WE TO JUDGE?

A bitingly chilly wind made me draw my jacket closer even though I was sitting in the shelter of my truck. I had resigned myself to a long wait in the car park of a busy shopping centre and amused myself as always by watching the coming and going of people, vehicles and even birds. The smell of cigarette smoke bothered me, especially as I couldn’t find the source of it. The vehicle parked next to me reversed, affording me the view a man sitting on the pavement on the other side of the close-linked fence.

He was bundled up against the cold, his head covered. He sat unmoving, seemingly watching the passing traffic. Occasionally he would wave at the occupants of a vehicle or shift to straighten his back against the fence. I could still smell the cigarette smoke but it wasn’t coming from him. The temperature warmed up. I removed my jacket and he replaced his beanie with a cap.

I took in his sun-burnt features and couldn’t help wondering where he was from; what had led to him sitting on this pavement on the corner of two busy streets in the city; what he was hoping for … three women stood near him, laughing while they ate some take-away food; a man called out to him from a passing car, they waved to each other – does this mean he was a regular? A well-dressed man tossed him a coin in passing … the cigarette smoke was still bothering me, as was the heat for the shade I had parked in had moved with the sun. He had no shade. Then he rose.

More questions immediately rose to the fore. How? Why? He limped a short way and spoke to someone out of sight then crossed the street and returned with a can of coldrink. The vehicle on my right departed, allowing me to see both who he had been talking to and where the source of the cigarette smoke was coming from: a well bundled up woman (his wife?) had selected a spot with scant shade from the tree I was parked close to. Is this where they both spent their days, hoping for enough donations to feed them (and purchase cigarettes)? Where do they shelter at night?

It was time at last for me to move on. Weeks have since passed and the questions remain swirling in my mind.

We do not know their story and can neither judge nor condemn them.

24 thoughts on “WHO ARE WE TO JUDGE?

  1. So many many people in that situation. We see so much of it here it almost becomes invisible as we go about our daily lives. I also always wonder what brought them to this state. And then I always think to myself “There but for the grace of God go I”.

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  2. We don’t have too many street people here, so when you do see one, you can’t help but watch and wonder how they got there. I read in our local paper recently that the homeless shelter/inn used to house 30 or 40 people a night, and now with the pandemic it’s over 200 and they don’t have room so they have to use local motels.

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  3. We see many homeless people in the towns and on the beaches, usually during our winter season. This year the weather did not turn warmer as it usually does and it must have been a difficult season for them. One feels so helpless in the face of escalating deprevation and poverty.

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    • I remember that seasonal phenomenon from when we lived in KZN. As you can tell from Joni’s comment, the escalation of poverty has spread much further than our shores.

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  4. Hard times seem to be on the rise for many. With so many folks living paycheck to paycheck, it doesn’t take much to put them on the street. It can happen to the best of people. Judge not, indeed.

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  5. It’s sad indeed Anne. I finished my last two years of university in Detroit, then worked in Downtown Detroit for three more decades and saw many homeless people right in the central business district. Sometimes they just sat on the ground with a tin cup and one woman used to come up and grab you by the arm. The sad thing was if people offered to buy them a cup of coffee and a sandwich or a breakfast pastry, many times they were not interested, but wanted money instead. A block and a half from me is a park with park benches and a huge garden. There are homeless people living in the park and sleeping there from Spring through Fall. I used to go over there more often to take pictures at the garden run by volunteers, but I felt uneasy doing so. I was there a few times this year, looking for butterflies, but only when I saw other people mingling in the park at the same time.

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