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Of hearts and homes

Of hearts and homes

Before I forget and not post anything for another few months, I have to describe two very different experiences I had with homeless people in Toronto recently, a city estimated to have up to 10,000 youth and adults living on the streets each night. It's a shocking statistic and while it's a reality here in Canada and sometimes even more severely abroad, I never get used to it. My face often remains stoic walking by those passed out on a subway vent with bare feet exposed, but my heart always, always twinges.

On Saturday night I sat chatting joyfully next to a friend on the subway home. I got to sleep in that day and I got to see a movie that made me laugh, cry and be inspired. Life was simple but perfect in those moments. My reverie ended when I realized the man sitting on the floor of the subway train wasn't sitting there because there weren't any seats available, but because he was so hammered and/or high he couldn't even make it to a seat.

He was friendly though and in the mood to talk to every passenger. I admit I smiled patronizingly at his alcohol-induced loquaciousness, but when he began to say things like, "I have a place to stay tonight if I want to, I just choose not to go home," my heart sank. He wanted to prove to us that he wasn't a bum of circumstances. That he was a man in control of his own life. I openly cried for him. Not out of pity, but out of an understanding heart that knows a little bit what it's like to hang so desperately onto shredding pieces of your pride.

On Sunday night I swooped into a parking spot at my local drug store with my red convertible, still hanging onto its Okie plates. A man stood by the store entrance asking for spare change. I answered honestly that I had no change, and it being night, and me being a single woman, I felt no guilt in not reaching into my purse, although I did say I was sorry I couldn't help.

He replied, "Ma'am, do not feel sorry. It's okay."

I could tell he was sober by the way he spoke to me. His eyes were clear in his polite reprimand. I was struck by his sincerity and almost believed he wouldn't use the money at the liquor store a block away.

As I left, I smiled when I passed him. He must've noticed my Oklahoma plates and my car that doesn't fit into the winter scenes here, because he yelled out laughing, "welcome to Canada!"

He made my night and I can't articulate why.

Welcome to Canada indeed. And to my new residence of Toronto. Where the roof-less are often more friendly than the 3 million covered by roofs.