Diversity of Compassion

*previously published on http://www.homelessguide.com/

The morning sun brightens Streetgirl’s long hair and tans her face as she stands at the ramp holding a sign that says, “BROKE + HUNGRY – PLEASE HELP – GOD BLESS – PEACE.” A line from the chorus of a Rag’N’Bone Man’s song is rolling repeatedly through her mind, “Don’t put your blame on me.”  The earworm has been wedged for days, but should clear out soon to be replaced by another. Last week it was The Beatles, “Here comes the sun.”

On the red light a female driving a black van and wearing a niqab pulls to a stop. She happens to lock eyes with Streets who beams broadly, because that is the way she is. It’s impossible to tell if the devout Muslim smiles back from beneath the heavy veil, but she is moved by the moment, reaching for her clutch and scooping out a handful of coins to pass to the panhandler without a word.

Soon after, a woman of Asian descent, behind the wheel of a small red car, silver electrical tape holding the side mirror together and rust circling the door; she stretches out her arm with an offering of two sweet clementine in hand. “Is it okay?” she inquires, adding, “I am so sorry. I wish I had something else to give you.” Streetgirl hears this all the time, strangers apologizing for being nice.  It’s a Canadian thing!

Next light, male, mid-thirties, well-built with dreadlocks and wearing paint-covered work-cloths. His accent is Jamaican, appearance Rastafarian, and Reggae artist Buju Banton blasts out the open window of his pickup. He slips her a folded five and says, “Stay safe Sister.”

Fifteen minutes later a middle aged white lady with a frail elderly gentleman slumped beside her in the passenger seat donates fifty cents to the cause. The man reminds Streets of her father, after his debilitating stroke and before his death ten years ago at the age of eighty-one, but she doesn’t say so. The woman holds her hand gently, looks her in the eye and shares her faith, “Jesus loves you. Remember that. You will be okay honey. Take the Lord into your heart.”

It was calm and peaceful on the curb, so the panhandler stays for a couple of hours, accepting a chocolate bar from a bright little Jewish girl and a loonie from her father who dons a kippah. Later she is gifted a jar of applesauce (along with a detailed drawing of the family outing at the apple farm) from another child stating with an understandably proud smile, “I made it just for you.”

In the end, as she is packing her sign away for another day a gay guy grabs her attention by yoo-hooing and waving a ten dollar bill. He is the only one who has noticed her best friend, curled up camouflaged amidst the tall grass that aligns the Ramp, fur covered with dandelion fluff.  “This is for both of you. Take care of that little darling dog,” he orders, oohing and awing much to the delight of his companion and the pet who pops her head up at the sound of affection.


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