Last week, for the first time since I started doing this community service project, I had leftover sweets. It was not because there were no people to give them to, but it was because I could not bring myself to approach some individuals who, as I regret to say, may not be on the streets because they had real needs.
I was on the bus last Monday when two people got on and sat down across from me. The woman of the pair was telling the man how proud she was for making double the amount her friend made when they went out panhandling. Apparently, she elicited more sympathy because she brought her wheelchair and showcased a collection of handmade jewelry. She actually did not suffer from physical disability but knew that she would elicit more pity if she appeared to have a handicap and told people that selling the jewelry was the only means to support herself besides panhandling. Hearing this, I was reminded of the warnings from my friends and felt very disturbed. Therefore, when I went out later last week, I became more conservative about passing out the goods. I happened upon mostly strangers, but also some familiar faces and, for the first time, opted to skip certain ones. For example, on my way to pick up the goods, I noticed that one of my regulars, an old man who I see on Robson every week without fail, tried again to see if I had anything on me to give him. If I had nothing to give, he would ignore me and turn his attention to the others passing by. If I carried anything on my hands, he would reach out long before I reach him and grab it from me as soon as I approach before waving me away. He was the same man a banker warned me about, the one with “the fake birthday”. I had always offered him goods whenever I saw him, so he had come to expect me. The banker was a nouveau riche and had an arrogant air about him because he refused to associate with “lesser people”, so I remember telling him defiantly that I would not discriminate and that I would rather err on the side of mistakes than withholding goods and dismissing those who may not appear so but do have genuine needs; however, over the past few months after receiving many warnings as well as making my own observations, I realized recently that perhaps I do need to be more discerning. It was definitely not a feel-good moment >.<
On a brighter note, I passed out sweets to some new people I met, and who were all very nice and appreciative. There was a woman on Granville who was dressed in bright colours and looked very festive. She was unassuming and did not have any sign out, save for a baseball cap, so was surprised when I offered her some muffins. She wished me a good night before I left her to write in her diary. There was also another man who was travelling with his dog, and who was very happy to receive some baked goods and talk to me for a little bit about his pet. There were also those who refused food, but who were very polite and did not pressure me for any money. I enjoyed talking to these people. On the other hand, I know that I should not automatically think that friendly people are the only ones with genuine needs, so I think this weekend I’ll try to hit Hastings with my partner when he is back, as he has a car and can help me carry more goods~
I feel that even after more than one year of doing community service I still struggle with how to best practice unconditional acceptance and how to juggle between caution and prejudice. Like I said before, I realize there are those who do not have real needs but are simply trying taking advantages of others, but I also do not want to discriminate in lest of passing over those who are genuinely down on their luck. I know that people all have their stories and that sometimes people do not want to justify their actions despite doing certain things that may appear suspicious. I myself have been on the receiving end of undue suspicion and know how hurtful it can be, so I can only hope that I did right last week…
P.S. A shout-out to the Filipino women who have been selling Krispy Kreme donuts by the skytrain stations. I approached one to learn more about their cause, and apparently they have been trying to raise funds for the orphans in Philippines. The woman I talked to refused my taking a picture of their sign because she thought I was a spy from another charity trying to steal their idea, lol, but I still find their efforts admirable. I noticed how they would stand in the sun for hours from morning till dusk, and find them to be very determined. Cheers to them for their kindness 🙂
#vancouver #homelessinvancouver #communityservice #volunteerism #charity #lifelesson #humility