Sunday, April 4, 2010

Mr. Cellophane

My temporary home in the city is a beautiful apartment in an block of mansions. A hundred years ago the early and newly rich of Seattle built these homes and lined the street with trees. They preserved vistas of lakes and mountains. I am thrilled that on most days the sidewalks are alive with adults and children who love being in this neighborhood. I never tire of watching the bikers and strollers from the six windows of my living room. I know that I am blessed to be able to walk to work, coffee shops, great restaurants and a bus to anywhere from this wonderful spot.

I am also struggling and miserably conflicted - because recently an older van/suv has been parked on the street near my building, and clearly it is a man's home. He keeps the van clean, and he appears himself to be clean though a bit ragged. He talks to himself and sputters and coughs a bit. He is gone most of the day, and returns to sleep each night. He moves the van a few inches a day to avoid parking fines. I wonder if he is down on his luck, out of work and homeless, or working nearby and saving his money, or if he is a psychopath.

I feel like I should do something but I do nothing. I wish I wasn't a little afraid. I want to live in a country where people are not forced to live in their cars or in tents or cardboard boxes. I feel guilty that I have two homes at the moment and this guy has just a car to sleep in. I want to feel safe and at the same time I want to be a compassionate and generous human being. I wish this guy (some mother's son) would move on. I wish I was Mother Teresa.

6 comments:

Ralph said...

Thanks for the honest thoughts, I know exactly what you mean. And the hard part is that since he mutters to himself, he's clearly not in the mental shape to befriend (since you may never know how connected he is to reality)...but I daresay he isn't dangerous. As the homeless became more numerous in DC during the 80s, when commitment rules were changed drastically (something to do with the Reagan administration)I, too was distressed until I realized that there is nothing an individual lay person can do to really help, except to bring the unfortunate individual to the attention of those who can. On a much more mundane level, but it applies here: I used to have friends who did nothing but complain. No amount of buck-up happy talk from me, a mere friend, could make them feel better about their lives. I remarked about this once to a friend wiser than I. She said, "Ralph, you're not a social worker." The best way to make the world better is to take care of yourself. And call the city about this guy in the RV. A real social worker may be able to help him.

Dolores said...

Your apartment and the neighborhood sounds so wonderful!!

I can certainly understand your being concerned about the man and his van being parked nearby. I hope he finds a home, and moves on.......

Helen said...

Hi there!
I hope I'm not being completely naive, but I don't think you are in danger and hopefully this gentleman will find permanent shelter soon. It sounds as though he is working during the day. If the situation changes, don't hesitate to call law authorities.

One Woman's Journey said...

Your city home sounds wonderful.
It sounds similar to what I left last fall and now I am in the woods!!
I understand your thoughts about the man in the van. We who are very compassionate - almost hurt inside for someone like this and want to do something and do not know what to do. I have always followed - when I do not know what to do - do nothing. You will know if you are to be more involved.
Remember him in your prayers.

Brighid said...

It is troubling to know what to do. My thought is to just be observant, and if need be contact social services.

Lonely Rivers said...

Thanks everyone for your thoughts and ideas about Mr. Cellophane. I first "discovered" him when I parked behind his van at about 11:30PM one evening and walked toward my building. I was suddenly aware of someone else - but had no idea who or where...then I heard him sputtering and complaining about being awakend, he got out of the van, and began spraying the interior with deodorant. It sort of shook my sense of safety in my new neighborhood.