Light Rail Review: I love the train. I love the cleanliness of it – the trains are new. I love watching the world pass by the windows, very much unlike looking out the window at the traffic on the bus. There is no such thing as an express train, so we stopped 13 times I think. They aren’t long stops, but they are stops. In all, it took 35 minutes for what takes 20 minutes on the bus. BUT, when I get off the train, I am on the opposite side of town from where I need to be. Their suggestion is to hop on the Free Mall Bus, that traverses the length of the 16th Street Mall – and gets me to the bus station I would normally arrive at. I sat on the bus for a few stops. Until a filthy man who reeked of urine came to sit next to me – his entire right side touching my entire left side. I was trying not to judge, but I imagined all of the lice crawling from his clothes onto mine. And I got off at the next stop and walked the rest of the way. I walked through the maze of other filthy folks, responding to internal stimuli. Those are the folks who are carrying on conversations and shouting to no one in particular…. actually it is the voices in their heads… and they don’t like them any better than I do.
I couldn’t help but think “So, THIS is the true state of mental health care in this city and state.” Truly. Not the nice stories. Not the pretty pictures of patients they clean up and take pictures of. These are the people in most need – and there they are on the streets, making “nice” people like me uncomfortable.
I am anxious to go back to a place where the patients are lovingly cared for, clean, fed, and medicated. I am anxious to quit these conversations with myself:
Would Mother Teresa have stepped off the bus to avoid a filthy man?
How dare I, a fellow sufferer, find these poor souls “offensive” or an inconvenience in my busy day?
It would take my entire paycheck to give each beggar I encounter a few bucks. But I know that I am not supposed to stick my nose in the air and pretend I don’t see them. I have started to put a few bucks in my pocket every day, and the first beggar I encounter gets them. Yesterday I had a long conversation with the guy who got them. He is selling A paper. When I say A paper, that is what I mean. He has one newspaper. If someone actually takes it from him, he will lose his ability to beg with a tiny bit of dignity. So no one takes it from him. It is tattered and filthy. I asked him what he would do if someone actually wanted the paper. He said “I’d be screwed man, I still need eleven bucks.” So, he pretends to sell this paper, and you give him money when you pretend to buy it. A strange business.
Tomorrow I shall ride the bus and sit in comfort and avoid these difficult thoughts.
Didn’t mean to “go there” today. I am working at home, I have a whole pile of papers to review. That’s a good way to spend a day. Perhaps I can sit on the deck while I review and get some sun, some vitamin D, and some natural anti-depressant.
Truly I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me. — Matthew 25:45