Wow. It’s been a long time since I have blogged and it’s not like I haven’t had anything to say. The pandemic has been a year of profound mental growth for me, perhaps the strongest year of my life. For some reason, it seemed like I didn’t have any topics to write about but it’s just that my eyesight was changing direction. I don’t have silly dating stories and frustrating male encroachment stories because I don’t go anywhere and quarantine keeps them from bothering me. Not much you can do with a bootie call so they have stopped calling. I guess that solidifies my level of worth in their lives. I don’t care. They have no worth in mine either.

Since being able to work from home, I haven’t had any depressive episodes. So nothing to write about there. I do still have anxiety attacks but nothing like when I was in the office.

I certainly had my share of political Facebook rants over the last year but upon seeing an online photo joke today of an empty golf course with no President on it, and how it saved the government $600,000, I realized there is a tiny little shred of peacefulness when Trump photos are dwindling off my feed. So my angst has quieted down.

I am by no means complacent. I believe this political period is just the Republican reset button so they can get their White Supremacy “right” next time. There is a lot of work ahead that we privileged whites MUST do in order to fight that kind of evil and ensure a just, fair and peaceful society for ALL of us (well, maybe not all of us….I’m ok with not advocating for the Proud Boys.). I continue challenging my inherent bias and educating myself all the time. With that, I think I should share some of that growth more publicly. Hopefully it will encourage others to join me on this imperfect but necessary path.

My first “Merry Christmas” of the 2020 holiday season came from a Black, homeless man on the corner of Dunkin Donuts, EF Winslow and the street leading all the ambulances to the hospital.

I had seen this man in this spot on an unseasonably, warm day before Thanksgiving. My knee jerk thought was to not make eye contact because that’s what you do when someone is begging for money on the corner. I learned that somewhere…not from my parents but somewhere. There’s the thought of “how did he squander his money to end up here?” The next thought is “he’s just going to use the money to buy booze or drugs.” desperately waiting for the light to turn green, I instinctively started to reach for my phone to pretend I was reading a text message. I also remembered the guy who used to sit in the road at the busy set of lights off route 6 in Nashua. He literally caused traffic jams because there wasn’t room to form the 2 lanes we were supposed to be able to in order to leave the Kohl’s plaza. I used to get so mad at him for that!

That was my first “processing.” Within seconds of that societal downloading, it occurred to me he wasn’t wearing a mask in the middle of a pandemic. You all know I am a germaphobe so, of course, that got my attention. My next thoughts were of empathy and concern. This guy is out here begging for money and exposing himself to coronavirus when he likely has no access to healthcare. It reminded me of all the articles I have read and the studies I pursued at Yale about vulnerable communities….that the Black community is not receiving equitable healthcare during this crisis and here is the perfect example of someone in that situation.

I immediately decided I wanted to give him some cash but, I never carry cash anymore. I don’t carry a purse because I am afraid it will get Covid germs and bring them into the house. I literally just throw my license, debit card and phone in my jeans pocket and go. All the years I picked on my sister for just carrying a wad of items like this and not having a wallet. I am now the same. I also wanted to give him a mask but I didn’t have any in the car other than the one I was wearing. The light turned green so I had to go.

While doing my errands I became quite troubled by my initial thoughts around how being homeless must have been something he did through bad choices or that we shouldn’t give homeless people money because they will spend it in alcohol….translation for “not responsibly.” Where did I learn these things? How long have I been such a snob? My parents didn’t teach me this. In fact, my dad over indexes for the “little guy” and making sure we give benefit of the doubt, don’t judge and give help where we can….never mind how the money gets spent. Just help a fella out. That’s what he does.

It wasn’t that long ago I was going through a mental health crisis with serious consequences as a result of what others would call my “bad choices.” But when I was going through it, these weren’t active choices. It was illness and the inability to monitor my behavior properly. When all was said and done, I had experienced severe financial hardship for awhile and was only 1 bad decision from putting myself on a path which could have led to homelessness and alcoholism. The only thing that likely prevented it was my white privilege and the resources I did have access to rebuild my life. Who on earth was I to judge him? And who says it’s his fault? Our government has a very long history of isolating the Black community on purpose, to invite crime even because incarcerations are profitable for the government and big business. Our country purposely designed a system to make Black people fail so we could profit off of them and ensure they would never threaten our “whiteness.” This guy on the corner likely had more to do with faults of me and “my people” than any misstep of his own.

Also, who cares what he spends the money on? He needs money and we all have it. I don’t get to give money away charitably “with conditions.” And what’s 1$ or $20 going to do for a lifestyle overhaul? Can’t buy a house with it. Can’t buy new clothes. Can’t go to the doctor. But, he was standing across from Dunkin Donuts so he could get a decent cup of coffee, even if he planned to mix in some nips. Whatever he needs for immediate comfort, that is not my place to say. When I was on “the outs” nothing anyone said to me made a difference. I still drank. Maybe the outcome wouldn’t have become so dark if the people around at that time weren’t doing the same thing as me. So who are any of us to judge?

I kept thinking I should throw a small amount of cash in the glove compartment in case I saw him again….maybe even some masks. But I forgot and went home. Even still, it didn’t stop me from thinking about him for several days after and why I had spent an entire lifetime shunning homeless people for “bad judgement.” How does society get away with implanting these beliefs in us at such a young age with very little effort at reinforcing it….maybe just some Hollywood movie stereotypes.? It’s frightening that it literally is instinct and you have to proactively know to talk yourself out of it. Most people are not like me and would never have gotten to the “challenge your beliefs” portion of this red light experience.

A few weeks later, back on the same route, I was headed to pick up my Thanksgiving takeout. Another weirdly warm day but was raining horribly. Not many people were out. I was one of only a few cars on the road. Wouldn’t you know, there he was again at that intersection? And here I was again not having any cash. So annoyed with myself. This time, though, I stopped at an ATM and grabbed a $20 so I could give it to him on my way back home. As I approached the intersection, the 20$ bill in my gloved hand, mask on and ready to roll the window down, I didn’t see him. I kept going towards home but just before turning into my street, I decided to try and loop back. Maybe he had just popped into Dunkins to get out of the rain. So, back I went. He still wasn’t there.

I wound up going home with my turkey dinner takeout, got all snuggled up on the couch with my pets and thanked God for the roof over my head. While so many people were feeling sorry for themselves not being able to partake in their usual festivities (and despite the assholes who changed nothing and exposed everyone to disease) I was just content to be dry, to have a meal, to own my own home and have video access to my family. That’s a pretty magical Thanksgiving in comparison to being homeless, out in the rain.

Those who know me, I am eventually like a dog with a bone. Once I get something in my head, there is no stopping me. Save your energy because it’s going to happen. I am going to think about it day and night until I accomplish it. Therefore, despite my fear of having my car broken into (because I have actually experienced it twice) I decided to leave the $20 in my glove compartment. I knew I’d travel that road again..,it’s pretty much the only road to Hyannis where the UPS store is and I shop enough I have to return things from time to time. I wanted to be prepared in case I ever saw him again.

One day in December…another oddly warm day for the time of year, I could see him ahead so I quickly moved into the left lane to align my window with where he was standing. My timing was perfect. I was the first car there ahead of the red light. I put my mask up, had already put my glove on while driving as I approached him, and rolled the window down, handed him the $20. He smiled broadly and said “Merry Christmas” to which I replied the same. The light turned green and I drove off.