Hello dear reader(s)!
I had BIG plans for today. HAD.
I have not been feeling good all day. Just another day on the rollercoaster ride that is bone marrow transplant recovery. I slept lousy last night, and just wanted to stay in bed. But some things had to get done.
Tomorrow is Cinco de Hannah. Also known as Hannah’s birthday. We will be having just a couple of her friends over for carne asada that I will be grilling. There is a little tienda in town that makes the world’s best prepared carne asada. Also, I had a prescription partially filled on Friday. It was only partially filled because the prescription was for 30 pills and they only had 10. State law says that for controlled substances (what isn’t controlled?), the remainder of the prescription has to be filled and obtained within 72 hours or forfeited. So I had to pick it up by roughly 5pm. Plus, we needed dinner stuff. I just really wasn’t sure I was going to be able to do it.
I dug deep, showered, got ready. and prepared to leave. So we went out into the hot day. And then, the sky darkened. The wind started blowing. We heard the booming off in the distance growing louder and moving closer. Thunderstorms! My absolute favorite weather ever! I was suddenly getting a second wind! We got the carne, got tonight’s dinner stuff, and got my prescription. As we were watching the lightning, hearing the thunder, and driving through the huge rain drops, we started to tell stories of all of the great thunderstorms that we have witnessed. Hannah brought up the coolest, most intense thunderstorm that we have experienced together. It is a story that all of the cancer stuff, all of the financial stuff, and all of the struggling to get by, pushed out of my brain. I’m so glad she brought back the memory though, because I think it says a lot about her, about me, and about the way humans should treat each other.
It was in Reno, NV in the late summer of 2010. Hannah and I had moved into a nice looking (but cheaply built) condo on Elko Ave. If you don’t know Elko Ave., let me explain. It is one of the worst neighborhoods in the Reno area. It is sandwiched between the freeway, Valley Road, 4th and 6th streets, and the motel with the most registered sex offenders per-capita of anywhere in the area, (and possibly the world). But our little building was nice looking, and had pretty good amenities. (We did not know until later that it also had no sub-floor.) Directly up the street, just off of 4th was St. Vincent’s which is a homeless shelter, food kitchen, and thrift store.
But unlike a lot of people, I do not fear people because they are poor. Hannah and I made sure to practice caution, but we are not paranoid people and aren’t looking down on anyone. There is a reason we rented where we did…we could afford it.
We’d regularly get homeless people on our street walking between their camps underneath the freeway bridges and St. Vincent’s. It was never a problem. Sometimes you could smile and wave, sometimes you left them alone because they were angry with the air or their voices and you did not want to agitate anyone.
Most high desert thunderstorms come and go quickly. That summer we had some pretty good ones for a couple of days. The final one in that stretch was a solid downpour for hours. If everything wasn’t so flat, or if the storm drains weren’t clear, we might have worried about flooding. As the temperature cools the storms usually fizzle out and rarely last into the night, although they occasionally do. This one did. It was pouring buckets. Because Hannah and I both love the rain, we decided to go out into it and look for a bit, even though it was already dark (better to see the lightning). When we opened up the door, we saw them.
A man and a woman, obviously homeless, shoved as close to the wall of the front of our condo as they could get. They were trying to seek shelter from the massive drops of rain. They were as surprised to see us as we were them. They apologized to us and explained the reason they were there. The tiny little overhang was offering them little protection. We told them it was fine to be there, asked if they needed any food or water and they declined. We went back inside.
Hannah asked if we could give them an umbrella. I told her we could if we had one. We knew they would still get wet out there. We didn’t want to invite them inside, because for safety, I wouldn’t invite a stranger in at night, or really anytime, homeless or not. Hannah goes to the kitchen. She grabs two heavy black trash bags and asks if I think they would help and if it would be okay. Bingo.
We go out and offer the trash bags to the homeless couple. They accept and thank us profusely. We tell them they are welcome to stay under the tiny little overhang as long as they need. They both fashion the bags into makeshift ponchos and tell us that won’t be necessary now. They tell us they can make it back now thanks to the bags. Back where? Who knows?
Now, I could have used those bags. Plastic garbage bags (the big ones, the heavy-duty ones) aren’t cheap. We were broke. They both absolutely reeked of alcohol and dirt and who knows what else. But do you know what? I don’t care. Hannah doesn’t care. Yes, we could have used those bags but they needed them, or something, more urgently than we did. And we had them. Does it matter how they found themselves in need? Not to me. Not to Hannah.
And it shouldn’t matter to you. We have an obligation if we wish to call ourselves civilized to help those who need it. Sometimes it is as simple as trash bags. If you can, you should help as much as you can. Figure out what you have (if anything) that you don’t need that someone might. Give it to those who do. Extra clothes? Don’t give them to a corporate thrift store, do your research. If no real charities are in your area, don’t dump it in the fiber recycling bins (for profit), go direct. Carry some trash bags in your vehicle. See someone trying to keep dry?…give them a freaking trash bag. Don’t wonder why they need it. And I’m not just talking about the homeless either. Sometimes, people get caught in the rain. Make their walk home better by giving them some help. Doesn’t matter the circumstances. We’re humans, we help each other. We’re soldiers in Operation Thunderstorm!