Sunday, February 20, 2011

What is home?

What is home to you?
      I lived in Florida for a few months last winter. There was a woman I would see every day. This was her home.
      It was in a small sheltered area behind a restaurant, small stores and rental complex off a parking lot.
     At first I thought it was a place for trash and overflow of things that might be in a garage or carport.  The area is strict with keeping the homeless away from local residents, the working public and tourists. I would watch them, mostly they were polite and kind and asked them to move on. Private property rules and laws they said. But twice I saw someone being rude with that sense of privleged arrogance that went with it.
     She kept her clothes in one of the big green trash containers in plastic bags. Her food 'pantry' was the smaller of the green containers. She said she could seal it tightly to keep the animals from stealing her food. She got up early, washed up from an old large water bottle that she had filled up the night before from a public restroom. Her head was usually wrapped up in a colorful scarf. Her shoes though, were worn and dusty.  She arranged all her belongings neatly and either walked or rode the bicyle. This was how it looked all day. Late at night, after dark, she spread it around using card board sheets as her mattress. An old blanket from the green container. Quiet as a church mouse. She was clean, friendly. Always had a smile for me. Beautiful even with a few missing teeth. I thought she had an occassional odd job around town, but I wasn't sure.
       When the weather was rainy or unseasonably cold she took shelter in a local homeless center for the night. I would see her around town and she would nod in acknowledge. She walked tall with confidence. Sometimes she had a plastic bag that was filled with bumpy looking things. I don't know what she had in there or what she did with it. She kept to herself. She was polite and soft spoken when talked to.
I would watch her often. She knew I watched her. I don't think she was concerned about me exposing her home to anyone that would make her leave. I wanted to ask her questions, to offer her something. How did she come to this and what did she need or want. I was intrigued by her, by the life she lead and by her demeanor.
     I decided that I would offer her a meal or money to get something she needed. I didn't want to disrespect her by prying. And in the offering, we chatted. She had been living this way fro quite some time. There was no more information as to how it all came about.  I knew it was her private life to share if she wanted to. She told me she was going to see her daughter soon, in a few days. That she had been saving money for a plane ticket for quite some time and she was excited to go. But she also said that she also looked forward to coming back home again.
     That was when I understood that home really is where your heart and spirit are.


  1. How sad and so rampant in this country. With empty abandoned buildings these people should not sleep on the street. We need to take care of our own. This woman was someone's mother/sister/daughter/friend and this is what happens. So good of you to offer her something.

  2. You may look upon this woman as a reject of society and ask," Why has my country done this to her"? but the truth is, she has an eternal home awaiting her in heaven and she is better known that the rich folks in the very town where she lives, she is known all over the world! How about that. God bless this hunble Woman who by her soft gentle words and patience encouraged not only this writer but even Geoff in cape Town half way around the world.

  3. I truly poignant story.

    Have you read "The Glass Castle"? In it, Jeannete Walls many times tries to get her parents out of living on the streets and her parents keep telling her -- they like it that way.

    So many don't, though, and offering food is what I always try to do. Only a couple of times have I had it literally thrown in my face so now I know to ASK if they'd like something to eat instead of just handing it over. I mean, how would *I* like it if someone just... well. I'm fluffy, I like food, so..... yeah.

    But back to the subject at hand. You are a lovely, Karma-laden person to understand. I'll bet she's got some cool stories. I could imagine heading out there with a couple of cups of tea or coffee (whichever she likes) and just chatting.

    You are a special, special, person, and someone I'd be proud to call a friend.

  4. Thank you for being there to hear her story, whatever small pieces she cared to share. Being heard is one of those small graces in life that we can easily take for granted. And yet hearing someone, with our hearts and not just our ears, is really one of the most natural things for humans to do. - G

  5. all in all, home is that place where we can curl up and feel safe at the end of the day, whether it's a house or a makeshift shelter like this one. this woman's home probably defines the word better than a lot of houses.

  6. TO:
    Bouncin Barb - I agree on taking care of our own. One gesture, one act, one word, all are a good place to start. Yes, she is someone special to someone isn't she? As we are to someone too. We must not forget the importance of that.

    Goeff Maritz - God puts us in each other's lives so that we may grow where we need to. Even though you are 'half way around the world' we are all close in caring about our human family and appreciate how our lives are different and yet so much the same.

    Pretty Things - The 'Glass Castle' is one of my favorite books. Hmmm . . . let each life be it's own life, yes we learn over time don't we?.
    I would love to have tea with her one day and talk. And I would enjoy tea and conversation with you, there is much in your heart that understands and shares with other's hearts. Thank you for your kind words friend.

    Georgiana Dollface - It was my honor to have her share whatever part of her life with me that she did. Listening is with the ears and hearing is with the heart. Thank you for hearing my stories.

    Lovkyne - Home, four little letters that mean so much. Where do we even start? It can be about being safe, being comfortable and being loved. It is not defined by walls or a roof, Yes I think her home, as ours, is mostly within the heart.

  7. Back in the day, when you ran across folks like this, they were either victims of bad circumstances, hiding from someting, or just wanted to be this way. Now, so many of these folks are mentally ill... It'a a crying shame!
    There is more than enough money to take care of EVERYONE who truly needs help! I just heard on the news that the cost of security for the upcoming royal wedding is going to approach 40 million dollars!!!! Yet, there are people with nothing all around... It makes me sad and angry!
    Okay, so there are some folks who would use the system and get money for nothing really! that's okay, I'd much rather error on the side of giving to those who don't really need it, as opposed to not giving to those who do.

    GREAT and thought provoking post!

  8. I lived on the street for a while. Many years ago. It was good and bad--I got lots of poems out of it later, and art.

    Good post.

  9. Great post. It relates to art I've been working on for some time. I've bought and collected homeless signs since 1993. If you are interested check out and thanks again!

  10. comments to

    Pat: I agree, I'd rather give to those that need, even if at time those that don't need get the benefits too. Always like when you stop by.

    Mary Stebbins Tait: oh my, you must have stories to tell and happenings that have changed have you live and how you relate to others. The things I could learn from your experiences.

    Rrramone: Thanks for stopping by. I did go to your site and was very moved even though I couldn't visit long. I will be back again to read more.

    Mary Stebbins Taitt: It is wonderfult to have good friends. To embrace the old with shared memories and experiences and to explore new journeys with new friends.

  11. Thank you! An interesting conversation. :-D




    and many many more. and poems. Don't want to fill up yr box.