Community Drop-in #6: You, have the best advice for yourself

Today is my second lunch at the homeless drop in. I never really have lunch because it’s on Wednesday afternoons and Wednesdays are when I am at my internship. I came again with JL. As an infrequent guest, I find it easier to go with someone who knows the people and the atmosphere more than I. Just her presence boosts the emotional support for me while being there.

As we were crossing the street, JL made an interesting comment. She said, “You always walk in not knowing what happened.” I was a little confused to be honest, but after the visit, I understood what she meant.

As we walked in, the smell wasn’t as strong as it normally is. Which is a good thing because not only am I getting used to the drop-in, I also don’t have to sense that atrocious smell. I mean, I know it is there, but since my nose has grown used to it, it’s as if the smell isn’t there anymore – to me at least. The first person I saw was Jake. The reason I noticed him first was because of his green shirt. From my previous lunch visit which is where I met Jake, he told me that he only wore black. He said there was a sense of power in wearing all black. Today he was wearing a bright green shirt!

Me: “Hey Jake, you’re wearing a green shirt! I thought you only wore black… so what’s the special occasion?

Jake: “I wanted to s-spice things up. This colour also looks good on me so I wanted to wear it.”

Sure enough, it did look quite good on him. As he talked, I kept thinking back to our previous conversation. I distinctly remember that he only said he’d only wear black, with the exception of dark colours. I guess with summer coming in before spring even arrived, it is beginning to brighten people up in ways we would never have imagined!

I looked around the room trying to figure out what was for lunch today. Lasagna – my favourite! JL on the other hand had left me standing there at the entrance to say hi to a few volunteers/workers. I don’t have a connection with the people there like JL does, so I always look forward to the food first when I arrive.

We sat down across an older man with a clean beard. He looked about 55 to 60, Caucasian and tough. Before I took a seat, he already introduced himself as Garrett. JL asked if he had already eaten and responded with a nod. The more I looked at him, the more he looked like a stereotypical Harley Davidson biker – badass.

As he finished his last bit of yogurt, JL swings her arm around with my lunch platter of salad, chicken burger and whole wheat pasta in tomato sauce. Where was my lasagna? As I analyzed my plate, Garrett looks at our plate and asks where our lasagna was. I asked the same thing. Without saying another word, Garrett waves down a worker and requests them to serve us lasagna. Emotionless and stern. Not even a minute passes and our lasagna arrives. While the worker was serving JL and I a spoonful, Garrett waves down his friend to sit beside him.

Since he is sitting across from JL, the two of them start talking. I will be honest, I wanted to talk to Garrett because I feel weird sitting there and being antisocial, but I was a bit afraid of talking to him. Putting all stereotypes and fear aside, I break the silence.

Me: “So what are you plans for today?

Garrett: “Well, I have to pay this Hydro bill after this. And then, I’m going to go buy a book.”

Me: “Oh, where? What kind of book?”

Garrett: “World’s Biggest Bookstore. Probably a history book. I really enjoy history. I feel like not many people look back at the history of the events that occur. They seem too interested in what is happening at the moment, but the way we got here is in our history.”

Garrett and I talked about history. I, myself am not knowledgeable in history so knowing someone who is, really intrigued me, and sparked an interest to know more. He recommended me to watch a movie called, Nanking. It is about the raping of Nanking, China. When he was briefing me on the movie, as soon as he said the “raping” I knew what he was talking about because my grandmother was a runaway. During his explanation, I can see glimpses of a smile which removed all sense of my fear in him. As with any other movie, I figured he suggested it because he had seen it so I asked what he thought about it. It turns out that he didn’t see it yet, but even if he did, he wouldn’t tell me how it was.

Garrett: “Watch it for yourself, then you’ll know if it’s good. Only the weak ask questions like that.”

I was silent. I didn’t know how to reply to that. Instead of leaving it at that, Garrett explained what he meant by personal opinions being for the “weak.” An opinion will not have the same effect as if the person was to actually watch the movie. When people ask for opinions, what makes them weak is that they are afraid to try new things hence the label weak.

I understand what he was trying to say, but I disagree at the same time. Opinions give individuals a perception from another pair of eyes. I don’t think people are “weak” if they ask for an opinion, I think they may be considered weak if they let the opinions overpower theirs. I always ask people for their thoughts. May it be on a dish at a restaurant, event, movie, or relationship, I ask because I want to see a different angle of it.

This project is like an opinion in a sense. My goal is to show the readers that we as people should not perceive the homeless or individuals who are troubled as dirty, lazy, uneducated, or stupid. There is more to them than the fact that their social class is considered lower than normal. Even though that is how I feel, it is up to the reader to decide how to view my experience. The weak are the ones that follow what I say while the others will research to formulate their own outlook.

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