After enjoying a nice meal at El Vez on 13th Street in Center City this past Saturday (November 19th), I decided to walk around Center City so I didn’t feel as though my meal of guacamole, nachos, and tacos were going to make me slip into a food coma on the sidewalk. As I was walking around the Center City area, I made stop-over at Dilworth Plaza adjacent to City Hall to see if anything was happening at Occupy Philadelphia. It was eerily quiet and deserted for whatever reason, so I left and started walking west on Market Street. While walking west, I saw a young woman who looked to be about my age, in her mid-20’s, sitting on the street holding a sign saying “laid off and homeless, please help.”
The woman looked as though she had been through a lot of hardship as of late, as was evident on her face. As I glanced down at her, I experienced a vast range of emotions and thoughts. My first thought was wondering what series of events led to her becoming homeless and asking people for money on the street. My second thought was wondering what job she was laid off from, and how long she had been homeless. My third thought, probably the most profound of any of the items circling my brain at that moment was, “What happens when the sun goes down and this person has to find somewhere to sleep, as well as stay safe.” I ended up buying a sandwich at the nearby 7-11 and giving it to her, of which she was most grateful.
When I saw that woman sitting on the street, I found myself thinking about what if that had been me down there? More so, that woman sitting on the street is someone’s daughter, and possibly someone’s sister; someone should be looking out for her, in my humble opinion. After giving her the sandwich and after she expressed her gratitude, I sat down next to her and asked if I could talk to her for a little bit, to which she nodded. I asked her what job she used to work before being laid off. I wasn’t about to intrude upon her privacy and ask her anything too personal, but she pretty much spilled it all right then and there: she used to work for Verizon for three years, but was laid off. Shortly after losing her job, she started seeing a man who introduced her to crystal meth, of which she was now addicted to. Now, with no source of income and a meth addiction, she had been begging people for money during the day and “turning tricks” at night. I sat there, utterly speechless, with nothing to say. She ate some more of the sandwich, and then informed me that she was originally from Illinois, and her parents, upon learning of her addiction, told her she was not welcome back at their home.
Oftentimes we get so wrapped in the daily grind of our own lives that we forget about those who are truly less fortunate for one reason or another. Even the homeless who have drug habits such as the woman I talked to deserve and need help. It’s easy to sit back and complain about the things in my life that I wish were different, but I know that I have it easy compared to others…we all do. The fact that we are afforded the liberty to post on the internet about whatever we chose to means that we enjoy privilege that many others in Philadelphia do not.
In the spirit of Thanksgiving, and in the spirit of just being a decent person, I feel as though we should all make it our mission to do something nice for someone less fortunate in the Philadelphia community. If you see a person in need around your way, buy them a meal. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, it should just be something that they can eat that will provide some temporary sustenance. If you want to donate money but don’t feel comfortable giving it to the person themselves because of fear it may go towards enabling a potential drug habit, donate money to Philabundance. It’s a fantastic non-profit that does tremendous work feeding those in need in our area.
I leave you today with this, do something nice for someone this Thanksgiving. It is a holiday that transcends all racial, religious, ethnic, sexual, and economic boundaries that we often use to separate ourselves with the celebration of holidays, and everyone deserves to have at least one day of the year where they don’t have to worry about things for a few hours. Do something nice for someone, not because should, but because you can.