I was running errands yesterday afternoon at my new favorite shopping area near Camelback and 18th Street. It’s not too far from home, has most of my favorite stores and a big parking lot, and I don’t have to brave much traffic to get there. So I stopped on the way home from work today to try and hack away at my to-do list, and passed a woman sleeping on a bench.
I’m guessing she was homeless, from the state of her clothing and the battered knapsack on the seat next to her. She looked pretty peaceful, in spite of the roar of the traffic and people walking past. I wondered how she could sleep in public like that, and it made me think about safety, and how we each have our own version of it.
I grew up in Europe and Asia, and rode trains and subways from age 11 to 18. We felt safe as the cars cruised along the tracks, rocking to their own rhythm. I often fell asleep between stations, waking just in time to jump off at my stop and walk home. We never worried about riding late at night, or missing our stop; trains and subways were a way of life for us.
My father used to tell a story of riding the Shinkansen (Japan’s bullet train), and how he watched a man wake just as the doors were closing at his stop, jump off the train – and stand on the platform in his socks as he watched his shoes disappear into the distance.
Fast forward to today. I’m not sure, if I were to ride a subway in New York City, that I’d feel that same level of comfort. I’m okay riding the T in Boston, or Amtrak, but a NYC subway is a wee bit scarier. Or maybe it’s just that it’s unfamiliar.
We all have our comfort zones. I can fall asleep on a bus or train or airplane. But there’s no way I could fall asleep on a bench at a strip mall. But if you’re homeless, you have to learn new coping mechanisms. I guess sleeping on a Thursday afternoon in front of Bed, Bath and Beyond is as safe as she gets. Maybe that allows her to stay awake and on guard through the night.
We take our safety for granted, when we have a roof over our heads and a soft bed in which to spend our nights. But imagine how it would feel if that safety vanished? If you didn’t have a lock on your door – heck, if you didn’t have a door.
Anyway, I’m not sure where I’m going with this. Just thinking about how lucky I am that I DO have a safe place to spend my days, and nights. That I don’t have to wonder where I’m going to be tonight, and if I’ll be able to sleep there. And if I’ll feel safe.
Take a moment to appreciate what you have, because it’s a gift. We take what we have for granted, and wish we had more. But there are some who would love to have half of what we have. Ever hear the saying about how if you lost everything you owned, and then got it back, how happy you’d be? Think about it.
Look around you. Appreciate what you have. You’re incredibly lucky. You didn’t spend the afternoon sleeping on a bench off Camelback today…
I hope wherever she is, she’s warm and safe tonight. And I hope the same for you.