She is a mini me. This little brown girl with wide eyes sporting a leopard print hat that matched mine. We locked eyes for a moment; both of us break into a smile. A few moments later, it all made sense. The last tent on the right. There are 4 tents pitched under the highway behind the guard rail. I pass this location 8 times a week. In September, I noticed a white board with a very neat display of small stuffed animals. I never thought of the obvious. I never considered the possibility of a homeless child. Yet, there she was, a little girl peering out of the last tent on the right.
I have always struggled with the holiday juxtaposition of bright, shiny, beautiful decorations, wonderful smells, joy and excitement versus scenes of cold stark despair, hunger and need. Spoiler alert, the despair wins. People know, I’m not a big fan of the holiday, I have no tree or decorations, can we just fast forward through the season to be jolly? In my overwhelmed headspace, I mentioned the homeless shelters charge a fee. My friend Julian commented “… you know, you give them a $20 bill and if they make smart choices, they can have shelter for a week, but you know things happen. We do what we can do.” All of us in the conversation, at some point in time given someone “the twenty.” My perspective shifted.
I write about balancing on unstable surfaces and this instability caught me by surprise. Sadly, over the years, I’ve not given my community credit for caring. People really do. That is the balance. It’s not we have to be all sad, or all happy. If I think I have to solve this problem alone, I will be depressed and overwhelmed. As a community, we make a difference. My neighbors, the Ellington residents and I donated $10,000 to the Alameda County virtual food bank. People care. Just like me, the hungry, the homeless and the destitute concern us, but we rarely talk about it. That doesn’t mean there is an absence of caring, it’s evidence of a sense of balance. You do what you can do. You give and donate and you balance that with great moment, so you celebrate what’s merry and bright. Just like my moment with my mini me.
The view from the corner. The tents are barely visible to drivers. People have said they are afraid to walk this stretch of Broadway at night; but the little girl in her leopard print hat lives there at night. I think of my mini me, I hope she is safe, happy and smiling.