Lawrence hadn’t felt this comfortable in a couple of years. He said it felt good to have someone listen to him without judgement. He even asked me to come and see him again when I can. Lawrence lived in a low-income housing unit on Main and Hastings. I will try to see him again before the end of my journey.
During our conversation last night, a doughnut delivery was taking place. Lawrence tried to get the man’s attention on a few occasions. After a few attempts, he finally got his attention. Lawrence wanted to know if there were any leftovers that he was going to throw out. “No, I’m sorry but every single doughnut counted.”
I fumbled around in my pocket to see if I had any change. Once I found some change I headed towards Sean, the cashier. Kenneth gave me $2 for making me wait in the rain last night while he was working. Kenneth’s work consisted of cutting up boxes and recycling garbage that businesses left him in his alley. So, it was time to put that money to good use.
I bought Lawrence a banana chocolate chip loaf. After melting butter on his loaf, we sat in silence eating. When he finished eating, he told me that it was the best loaf he’d ever had. I asked him if it was the loaf that made it so delicious. He said no. The loaf probably tasted good, but the company, the warmth from the blanket and all the things in our lives made it taste so good. He said it was all due to God.
Lawrence was an extremely appreciative man. Sure, his addictions made him suffer, but he was thankful for what he had. As he pointed to the cranberry juice and banana that were on the table he said “we live in a city where there are bananas and cranberry juice all in one place. A lot of places in the world do not even have that.” Many remote parts of the world may have never even seen cranberries or bananas. So how can we complain? A man, who in our eyes has less than us, is more appreciative of what we have than we are. That is beautiful.
Had I only talked to Lawrence, I’d say that he was a complete exception to the Downtown Eastside. But I have no right in making that claim. I’ve met a lot of Lawrence’s. Many of them are grateful, while they accept the challenges and difficulties that lie ahead of their everyday grind. It is not fair to create societal pressures on top of this, which only makes it harder on them. It is hard enough as it is.
Aren’t we supposed to love thy neighbor? Don’t get me wrong, people are good here and there. But considering the several hours I have spent sitting here on the side of Granville Street, very few people notice me. And even fewer people have come up to greet me. A nice smile or even a nod of recognition affects a person’s day. Not just to panhandlers but also to strangers or friends that you come into contact with in everyday life.
Ask yourself: How many of you judge a homeless man begging for change? Given the stories you have read so far in my blog, would any of it change the way you perceive these people? It has definitely changed mine. When I go back home on December 30th or when I return to the life I was living before December 23rd, a part of me will always stay here. It will be impossible for me to leave this place; after witnessing all these injustices, inequalities and pain that some people have endured for so long.
I may have gotten a taste, but to them it is life itself. I have even considered staying here. The fact that I am a man without any addiction problems definitely lowers my costs of living in the Downtown Eastside. I do not ask for much in this world. Realistically though, my parents, family and friends would not understand why I would even consider giving up the life I had to come here. I will come and visit here often. I can see myself keeping this connection alive for many years to come.