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Homeless but Thankful on Thanksgiving

Updated on January 1, 2017

Example of Thanksgiving I Used to Experience and WILL Again.

Though this years thanksgiving dinner was "not what it used to be" - it was still shared with a friend - on a bench in the rain- but it still tasted great because of the friendship.
Though this years thanksgiving dinner was "not what it used to be" - it was still shared with a friend - on a bench in the rain- but it still tasted great because of the friendship. | Source

Outside PNC Park in Pittsburgh

Dante and I sat on the concrete base of this statue outside PNC Park to eat our Thanksgiving dinner in the wind, rain and cold. We still felt good.
Dante and I sat on the concrete base of this statue outside PNC Park to eat our Thanksgiving dinner in the wind, rain and cold. We still felt good. | Source

Best and Worst of Humanity on One Day

I decided to write about one specific day of my sojourn through the "Land of the Homeless" : Thanksgiving. This day marked two occasions: 1) It is a big family holiday but I am in a shelter and alone. 2) It marked the fourth week anniversary of my stay at a homeless shelter. As far as a family day, it was a reminder of my parents whom are gone and I miss every day. It is also a reminder of my brothers and their families of whom I am estranged and admittedly do not miss.....I think. It was a reminder of the only person I do consider family, my novio Eduard, but who is still in the Dominican Republic which is reminder how much I loathe our immigration system but that will be a future article.

As far as 2) the fourth week anniversary, I was happy I had survived a month stay at that shelter, the most 'unpleasant' shelter. Not all the realities of living there had happened yet. The memory of a staff member, kicking a resident awake that morning who had the audacious nerve to fall asleep as 8:00 approached, on the couch waiting to be herded out into the cold sends shivers through me every time I think of it. So much for the word Christian that they incorporate in theory in their name and publicity. Forget the fact the person who fell asleep has major health issues and appears to be in his 70's. Forget the fact it was a major holiday where we residents have enough negativity in our lives. Forget? Not on your life! To see a man kicked like a dog sends saddens and angers me. Not even dogs are allowed to be kicked- and shouldn't be- but then we are homeless and apparently subhuman to some. Of course more on this another time and article.

After breakfast, we had to be out on the street by 7:50 AM. The weather was very cold, windy, rainy, dark and dank. What makes all that really bad is that almost everything is closed, as it should be, it being a holiday. The shelter had neglected to tell us of any churches that might be open to serve coffee, food or hope. I wouldn't have gone anyway but the majority of the men would have. I was happy I would have someone to walk with. A young black gentleman, named Dante, who for what ever reason, cliqued with me and I him. On that day, we got along beautifully and had fun making fun of ourselves and our predicament. Laughter is the best medicine!!! This would be a day where we would experience the worst and the best of human nature.

We walked around, not knowing where to go, quite aimless, but laughing and joking about out journey. As I have told Eduard a number of times, we probably resembled the walking dead from one of the many shows and movies people seem so enamored with. I remembered the cafeteria at the Allegheny General Hospital where I had spent an hour or so a couple of Sundays ago waiting for a time when more things would be open. I had no problems sitting in a corner, sipping coffee and writing. I assumed that there would be no problem this time. Wrong!HHHHMMMM.....however Dante liked the idea. We went and entered the cafeteria. I bought a large coffee for myself and a cappuccino for Dante = around $6-7 dollars. I mention this as it was not as if we had not added to the profits of AGH.

Dante and I had a very nice and positive conversation. We sat at the same table I had sat at the previous time I was there. We talked about our previous lives and insecurities. I was surprised and saddened that Dante has so many. I tried to point out his insecurities were groundless and began the process of trying to rebuild or strengthen his self-esteem. I have always found it much easier to help other people with their negative, self-inflicting harmful feelings than my own. We actually bought ANOTHER cappuccino. Oh that cash register was happy with us..... however..... not the staff.

I had to go to the bathroom as the caffeine had begun it's accelerationing affect on my kidneys. When I came back, Dante said a security guard had come to the table and quite ANGRILY and RUDELY, told Dante that he "and his buddy" had to leave immediately; that we had been there almost two hours and that was too long. I thought Dante was joking at first but when I saw the look of hurt in his face, I was incredulous. 1) It was Thanksgiving 2) we had made purchases 3) It was Thanksgiving - it bares repeating 4) There was only one other table that had occupants out of at least 50 tables so it was not as if we were affecting business in a negative manner 5) we were more than properly and neatly dressed. 6) We were not loud or making a scene as we both are well-mannered.

I was angry and mortified. I asked Dante if the security guard was around as I was going to confront him. He was not. Lucky him. An old saying that could describe me is "Beware the anger of the dove." We walked around the park and saw that the one shelter, "Light of Life" was handing out winter garments. We went to peruse what they had. Dante talked to a few people he knew and I found a scarf and gloves that I needed and was very grateful for. Dante said he did not need anything. We left and both our bladders signaled that they needed emptying again. I said, "Lets go back to the hospital just to use the bathroom." It was that or the threat of indecent exposure so we opted for the hospital. As we approached the bathrooms, the security guard, apparently a disciple of Satan, approached us and started yelling at us that we had to leave, that we had been there long enough. I reminded him that 1) It was Thanksgiving 2) My doctor's offices were part of the hospital 3) I got prescriptions at the hospital 4) There was no need for rudeness. All he could repeat was that we had been there too long. I suggested he had better allow us to use the restroom. He rolled his eyes, gritted his teeth and said "OK but then you got to leave..." then I finished for him ..." as we have been there for two hours and that is too long." He made a face and walked away. We were well dressed. I even had Versace jeans and sweater on and Dante was nicely dressed - we looked better than most of the other people walking around so his demeanor was dumbfounding. Dante went first into the bathroom. I waited outside for my turn to go in. Again the idiot guard walked by and did his "two hour" mantra again. I said, "There is no reason for your lousy attitude and rudeness. The hospital is hardly crowded and we did nothing wrong and spent money." After Dante came out, I went in. When I came out, Dante was gone. 1) I felt rejected 2) I was fearful the security guard did something to Dante.

I walked out and felt lost and alone, very alone. I knew the "Light of Life' would be serving a nice dinner shortly but pride would not allow me to partake. Of course, the fact that "WTAE" news vehicle was there with cameras using the homeless as news/entertainment fortified my resolve not to go inside. Suddenly I saw Dante walking towards me. He was glad to see me and I him. I felt a load lift from my shoulders and heart. I saw he did need gloves so I gave him my new ones.

Where to go, where to go.....where to go!!! It was so very cold and miserable outside. We resumed our zombie walk and thank God we were not consumed with a desire to eat human flesh...well maybe the security guards, but I'm sure it would have tasted terrible and even rejected by a real zombie! We decided to go to the Northside Station and take the "T" to downtown. To what destination, we had no idea but the subway is heated and that was all that mattered. We laughed and joked which helped dispel the negativity of our journey. For me, the comradeship with Dante was "tastier" and more fulfilling than any meal.

When we got near PNC Park, my bladder gave it's annoying signal and wanted emptied again. Luckily, there were two 'Port- O- Potties' nearby and I flew there. I entered with eyes closed and had stopped breathing. As I walked out, an SUV pulled up and someone asked us if we were hungry. I said, "No, we are fine but thanks." (Oh evil pride). Dante quite correctly corrected me and said, "Yes, we are hungry." They pulled over and a man came out. He introduced themselves as from a Baptist Church ( I so wish I remember which one) and introduced us to the driver (his father) and a young boy. He gave Dante and I each a Styrofoam meal container and the young boy oh so sweetly gave us each a piece of pumpkin pie wrapped in foil. We talked for a short while. We thanked them profusely and then left them so they could continue on their noble journey of looking for hungry people. I must have expressed to Dante my gratitude and surprise at the pure kindness of these wonderful people a million and one times. It is a situation I will never forget. Whenever I think of all the selfish and ignorant people I had recently had to deal with such as THE SECURITY GUARD AT THE ALLEGHENY GENERAL HOSPITAL.... yes I am still bitter about him... I think of those truly kindhearted, unselfish and generous people.

We sat down on some boxlike structure near the stadium and commenced to eat.. in the cold... in the drizzle.. in the wind, BUT we were feeling pretty good and warm because of the unexpected kindness of some wonderful strangers. And you know what? The food was delicious. It was all homemade, made all the more tastier because of the addition of the most important ingredient - LOVE!

We rode the subway to the end of the free zone then back to the Wood Street Station. Let us remember, this is Pittsburgh's quaint but oh so short subway so it was a quick trip but it warmed us. The only place open was a gay bar named "Images". Dante is very straight but I told him he would be fine. After his first shot, he didn't care where he was. I only had wine. After a couple of hours and after some ugly guy tried to flirt with Dante, we left and walked for a while longer and talked to a few other homeless people. Then we trudged back to the shelter.



Lessons Learned

As it turned out, a church group brought a nice dinner to the shelter so not only did we not under eat, but we probably over ate. This would be a day I would and will remember for three reasons: 1) The worst of humanity, that being the security guard at "Allegheny General Hospital" 2) The best of humanity, that being those wonderful Baptists who spent their holiday driving around looking for people to feed 3) The importance of companionship. As Dante's presence reminded me: loneliness and despair are a much lighter burden when you share it with someone. Not a bad thing to be reminded of especially as that burden would become much heavier over time.

Shelters are a necessary part of the "safety net" that is essential for the well-being of that part of our society that is in need. I am writing this paragraph more than two years after the original. As I have said and written many times, our social system is a series of band aids when sutures are needed. If someone is in a shelter, they obviously need help. Conservatives whine that people using social services are lazy. That is simply not true. I have an education and fortitude to traverse this difficult system. I got back on my feet. There needs to be a conduit of sources to people in shelters to see why they are where they are and to see what can be done to make them a positive contributor to society and attain the fulfillment of their potential. For me, it is a common sense solution.

Allegheny General Hospital

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    • profile image

      Jane Simpson 18 months ago

      I enjoyed reading your article- nice that something good happened to balance that terrible security guard. I pray things are better for you now.

    • Peter Grujic profile image
      Author

      Peter Alexander 19 months ago from Pittsburgh

      Thanks! It was an eye opening experience. life is returning normal little by little. I still do lots of volunteer work and it has given me insight to many of the people I now help. I now work as a pharmacist part-time and teach adults courses to get their GED. You are so correct in an enriching connection with the spirit. for everything there is a reason...... I never really knew about the comment section to connect with people so maybe I will connect with more great authors like you. When I come back home later, I will read some of your articles. I looked at them and they look very interesting.

    • jonnycomelately profile image

      Alan 19 months ago from Tasmania

      Peter, I am almost speechless! (And that, other Hubbers will tell you, is odd coming from "comelately!")

      Such a down-to-earth, honest, loving, challenging article about your personal experience, deserves a medal. It was apparently written 10 days ago, yet mine is the first reply..... I wonder why, says I.

      I have personally known a little of that loneliness you speak of. On one occasion it was in London, wandering the streets all over for a night when I could not find anywhere to stay.

      At other times, it was when I "belonged" to a church group, and others were so up themselves with their godly holiness that they never even considered someone might not have connections at Christmas time or New Years Eve. (Yes, it was my self-talk and low esteem that was mostly the problem, but when you're in deep shit it's not possible to see reality for what it is.)

      Friday evening can still be a very lonely time, especially in amongst crowds of family groups, all having meals together and chatting away....friendships.

      We can read all the self-help books in the world, get all the psycho- assessments from big-billed people who know how to fix us. Yet it all comes down to just the way life is....for you, me, countless others throughout the world, for one reason or another.

      You are right though: when the opportunity is presented where "my" problems are put into perspective and another person's problems become part of "my" destiny to get involved, it can be the most sublime and enriching connection for the Spirit. Whether atheist, catholic, baptist, buddhist, or any -ism, it does not matter a hoot. It's the dropping of barriers and the setting up of a Now awareness that brings home Life and Love to the situation.

      Thanks again for your beautiful Hub.

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