Le Snoog and I made the Monday Pilgrimage across the bridge today to eat lunch with Le Hubs. Lately, each time we make that drive, I'm struck by the number of panhandlers standing at the intersections. It used to be that you'd maybe see one or two here or there at major corners, nothing like in larger cities. Now it seems like there is someone on every corner, all four sides of the intersection, at every large intersection and more often than not, a couple of people at the smaller corners as well.
We saw a woman today holding down the fort at one side of a large intersection. The sign she was holding, written with black marker on cardboard, said "I Have Not Ate In 31 Hours" (and yes, that is a direct quote). My first thought about that embarrasses me. Back in the day, 31 hours without eating was no big deal to me. It was a goal I took a lot of pride in achieving, and then some. Frankly, I thought I was better than anyone who couldn't, by choice, make it at least that long. Eating represented the ultimate weakness, a giving in to something I should be able to overcome by sheer force of will. Maybe it shouldn't have been a surprise to me, after living 20-some-odd years working at disappearing, that the first thought that came to mind when I read that sign was "Well, THAT'S no big deal." I'm not saying I'm discounting her hunger, or that I think it's a sad commentary when people are standing at street corners telling you in writing how long it's been since they've eaten...what I'm saying is that I'm now at a point where I can see it as a sad commentary.
I chose those 31 hours. If she truly hasn't had anything to swallow other than pride for the past 31 hours, I suspect it's not by choice. It makes me wish there were more I could do for her...but it also makes me realize how times have changed. I have eaten by choice today. I will eat by choice again today. I no longer see the fact that someone else has not as something that makes me the weaker person, or something to be happy about.
Sometimes it's the things you wish you hadn't seen that remind you to be grateful for them.