“Can you spare some change?” he asked a citizen!

The Vancouver Province's solution to troublema...

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How dare he ask for change in this great place we live!  A place where we are full of higher education and very busy living our green worthy lives.  How dare he bother us!

Our bags are filled with organic locally grown produce and righteously so.  Our achievements are certainly worth noting — so how dare he ask us for change!

They say he has schizophrenia so he might well, he might kill us!  You don’t know what he might do.  Did you hear in the news about that guy who…

Dial 911!  Tell them we are being harassed by a schizophrenic who is asking for change.  Put him in jail — that will teach him!

“Can you spare some change for a cup of coffee?”  he asked a citizen near the center of the lovely town considered one of the best places in America to live.

He needed fifty-cents more for a cup of coffee.

Most of the people asking for change are kept in one place and it isn’t near that part of town.

The praised area of the lovely town includes the organic market, which is the center of living green; a gathering place for locals, most of whom have a higher education.

Medical professionals, scientists, students and plenty of people with PhD’s in just about every field you can imagine patronize the market and the surrounding shops.

Students, natural healers, and many professed open-minded free-spirited folks are to be reckoned with in this great place, which is what I love about living here.

Since it isn’t illegal to ask for change then a person who asks can instead be charged with other crimes.  Harassment, trespassing and several others that will land him or her in the same jail that holds violent criminals waiting for a life sentence.  But then, I guess,  all county jails are created equal.

I had been sick and my son was not well during this time.  He was however enjoying tutoring sessions via the local literacy council.   The offices are located on the same property as the organic market.

He and his tutor were studying the Cherokee language, the learning of which is by no means an easy attempt.  The tutor didn’t know anything about the language and nobody there seemed to know about the working memory.

One thing was clear.  My son loved the class.  He absolutely loved it.  He talked about it.  He thought about it in between classes.  He was getting a lot out of the class.

He wasn’t even on the property of the market and was on a public sidewalk when he was seen asking for change, but the private security guard didn’t care.  He hadn’t cared a week earlier when I went there and asked him if we could talk.

I thought that the security guard might have some empathy for our situation if I explained to him that my son was not well and that I was trying to get him some help.  I went to see him.

He was nearly unapproachable and it was clear he wasn’t interested in talking to me.  When he did he was very rude.

“My son would like to talk to you,” I said to him.

With a look of contempt he turned towards my son who was standing by the smoking station.  Arrogantly the guard remarked,  “No he doesn’t.”

“Yes, he does,” I repeated.  “He’s waiting over there because he said you told him he could not smoke anywhere else.”

“Well.  Yes he’s right.  I did tell him that.  I’m surprised he listened.”  What a jerk.

My son walked up and held out his hand to shake the guards hand.  The man stood as still as a robot with his arms behind his back.  I wondered if he had been in the military and maybe he thought he still was!  I looked him in the eyes.  A few seconds later he held out his hand to shake my son’s, but when I held mine out he refused.

I have no idea what that man thought of me.  I dress in clean clothes.  I’m pretty clean cut overall.  I mean I don’t stand out or anything.  So why, I wonder, did that man treat me with fear of contagion,  looking at me with total contempt and only staring at my hand when I held it out as I introduced myself.

Who knows what he thought of me –the mother of a son who would ask a citizen for change?

My son apologized to the guard.  He told him he wouldn’t do it again.

I wanted the guard to care.  I wanted him to care that this young man has a mother.  I wanted him to know that I am trying to get help in this community.  I wanted him to care that we are a part of the community.  He did not care about any of that.

He said if he saw my son ask for change again that he would call the police and have my son arrested.

I was having a terrible episode of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.  My son was not well.  His ACT team wouldn’t help so I was doing everything for my son.

A couple of days later, my son made a very poor choice and again, ask someone for change.  I had just talked to him that day and told him I was coming to town to give him some of his money but he didn’t wait.

He was banned for one year from the entire property, which not only includes the market but the grocery store, the drug store, our favorite restaurant where we’ve dined since he was a boy, along with the place where he was being tutored.

I was very angry at him but I also knew he needed professional help and he was not getting any.  None.  No doctor visits.  Nothing.

He was dismissed from the tutoring services a couple of weeks afterward.  The director said they stopped tutoring him because he has memory problems.  I pleaded.  I nearly begged them not too dismiss my son from all services.  I tried to get them to teach him something easier to remember than the Cherokee language.   I asked if it was because of any other reason –(I suspected it was related to him having asked for change) but they said no, that it was because of his memory problems.   I believe they lied.  A memory problem is part of my son’s disability.  The literacy council receives government funding so this doesn’t make sense how they could legally dismiss my son from all services because of his disability.

Why couldn’t his ACT team act?  Why couldn’t we come together and try to solve the issue and help my son?  I asked if we could meet and perhaps go talk to the guard.  Their response was they thought it best to simply leave it alone.  Do nothing.  Not even talk about it.

Why can’t we act like a community who cares not only for people in other countries but about our very own neighbors?

How can we feel so good about living green and doing right by the land and saving all the animals and doing all the zillions of good deeds, while we turn our heads to our own neighbors in need?

We believe, without knowing that someone is helping them.  We believe, without knowing, that our community is set up with services to help people, like my son, who does things we do not find acceptable, such as asking for some spare change.  We believe our tax dollars have secured such services.

I have since made sure that my son has money for coffee, but I do not want to go to that market and shop anymore.

I guess if it was an area where tolerance was not so widely professed then it would be easier to accept the kind of intolerance that seeps out of the pores of the people with power, such as that security guard.

He ought to be keeping his eye out for thieves.  But then, I guess, we often associate a person asking for some change with thieves.  I had told the guard and a friend of his had told him as well that my son is a good guy.  He didn’t care.

I have turned my head plenty times when asked if I could spare some change.  I have judged without knowing anything about the person asking.

I believe this year, in the spirit of Christmas, I will spare some change.

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17 responses to this post.

  1. Thank you so much for visiting my blog and following. Very kind of you. I’d like to follow you if that is ok. Have a great weekend.
    Jeanette

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  2. I really honor your dedication first of all, but overall to humanity as a whole. And, yes, I will spare that change too.

    Much love and light surrounding you and your son both this holiday season.

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  3. […] This post was Twitted by asofawithaview […]

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  4. Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by mitch1066: At this time of giving read this and think,thank deeply!! http://bit.ly/8hKEc8

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  5. Posted by abellve on December 11, 2009 at 11:17 PM

    All of this turmoil so some farmer’s market security guard could feel like a big man, keeping the peace over a cup of coffee. It’s a shame you and your son have to deal with this. Thankfully you have each other but why should we have to resort *only* to each other for lack of community. It’s fine if no one wants to give him change though we’d like to hope for better. Most of us have given change and most of us have also turned away. That’s choice. It’s fine if the guard tells him he can’t ask for money too. It’s their place — but to put all of that energy and all of those resources into throwing the book at someone who meant no harm and just wanted a cup of coffee … I can’t make sense of it. Think of all the times, every day, that the cops could be left alone but are called. Our resources could be better used elsewhere — perhaps in the kind of programs your city is lacking. Think of all the times someone could just talk to someone as a civilized human being, an equal, but doesn’t. Yeah, cops are going to see the “mentally ill” as a problem when every time someone thinks talking to someone with a diagnosis is too hard or beneath them and they’re getting called out over coffee and library books, strange looks on the bus or someone in the wrong clothes wandering around like the rest of the free citizens. We’re so focused on what people represent — a problem , a nuicense, a class, a race, a diagnosis, whatever — we don’t even see them for what they are. Just people, looking for the same simple pleasures as the rest of us — a walk around to soak it all in, a cup of coffee, maybe a kind gesture every now and then and to be left alone to enjoy it.

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    • abellve–. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. I appreciate very much your thoughtfulness. One thing that really tics me off is that this town is in fact a place with many resources. So what does this say about our entire country? People talk about community a great deal more than they actually live it. I really do not mean to blame or accuse or point fingers. However our communities are broken.

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  6. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Michelle Jadaa, Michelle Jadaa. Michelle Jadaa said: At this time of giving read this and think,thank deeply!! http://bit.ly/8hKEc8 […]

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  7. Posted by Michelle Jadaa on December 11, 2009 at 7:34 PM

    wow ……very deep.Unfortunatly the ones that dont care will still not care untill they are in the position themselves.

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    • Hi Michelle, thanks for reading. I guess it is “very deep.” I have two ways of writing. One when I’m emotional, which I think is my better writing and the other way is when I’m not upset and can work on whatever I’m writing for a while. I guess you can guess that this one came straight out of my head without much scrutiny. I could write 100 more right now just like it, particularly on how my son has at times been treated in the name of modern medicine. I have many stories too about my life that I could write and I know people would say they are powerful and deep, which is why I write. If I didn’t have an outlet I don’t know how I would cope.

      I do think you are right about people not understanding until they are in that position. I think I should be writing to the local newspapers about these type of things. What do you think?

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  8. This is a powerful story, may this story about change inspire change! Thank you for sharing!

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