Cities are collections of interesting pieces, adjoined together making them a whole. I find the inner pieces fascinating. A few months ago, an opportunity arose for my husband and I to visit Austin, Texas for an environmental conference. During our time there I found myself jotting down notes concerning the day’s events. We did a fair amount of walking city streets, eating and sightseeing. The city does have a certain amount of historical charm and culture, however, a few shortcuts down side streets gave our eyes a different perspective.
During the day things move at high speed, people mindlessly traverse from place to place, glued to various forms of technology, barely acknowledging life happening around them. Nearly every corner hosts homeless souls in temporary camouflage, an anonymous blending of society.
I found myself wondering. Do they have family? Where do they find food and water? Do they have shelter, a place to clean up, and wash dirty clothing?
My Mind Raced
After a short trip out for dinner, I continued observing from our window that overlooked the streets. A few blocks away I could see the Salvation Army. People lined the sidewalk huddled with their belongings in hopes of obtaining shelter, a shower, fresh clothing and something to eat. Although it was well before dark the line continued to grow. When the light faded to dark people began to scatter. Streetlamps and passing cars allowed me to see people continuing to wander, looking for safe places to rest for the night. It became apparent that the same streets live a totally different life after dark. As the evening progressed, traffic slowed and all street activity seemed to cease except for the flashing of police lights in the distance. It was like a cloud of sadness had drifted over the city.
Many different feelings were consuming me. Here I was, resting in a cozy room, in a comfortable bed, running water, clean clothing, devices for sending and receiving communication and extra snacks. My purse contained my medical insurance card, money and numerous personal care products. If I have a toothache, I can go to the dentist. When I have a cold, I have the luxury of a doctor. I was feeling grateful and guilty simultaneously. In a strange way, I may have been a little jealous too. Having fewer possessions and responsibilities might offer a sense of freedom. They might be happier than those of us who possess these things as we also possess the worries that come along with them.
So Many Questions
Who were these people? What happened along the way that brought them here? What were their stories and what did they leave behind? Had they been cast out by family or lost a job? What had been their dreams or did they just lose their way? Perhaps it was a desire to retreat from the complexities of society and find peace in oneness.