Yesterday was the guiltiest day of the year– the first freezing & below, bitterly cold, windy day of the winter. My guilt started early, and kept going. First, the coffee shop around the corner, where I stopped for my morning coffee and breakfast sandwich to eat in my safe, warm car as I drove across the state to a safe, warm, conference room to argue about money with people who already had it. The coffee shop was full at 8 in the morning with the local transients– it will be all winter, weekday and weekend. There won’t be room for me to work at my laptop in there if I want to, and even if I get there early enough to snag a table, it will soon be too loud as the homeless with their lack of inside voices rejoice in the warmth. The servers and owners only throw them out rarely. It will be the same at the local library branch, the heat from the radiators exacerbating the odor of people with no place to wash except public sinks in public bathrooms.
Second, when I returned to the parking garage near my office, then walked by the VA Center walk in clinic, a half-dozen guys standing outside smoking cigarrettes, huddled in the doorway, gloves and hats and thin leather jackets their shield against the wind howling out of the cold blue sky.
Third, when I passed the next three clusters of homeless, less well-clad than even the veterans relying on the free care clinic. I did see the food truck. They did have some blankets.
Fourth, that same cluster on the way back to the car, after dark now, the wind dropping off, but the temperature, too.
Fifth, the cluster of four of them under the overpass, the acute angle making a shelter from the wind, and a tangle of blankets, plastic bags, a mattress or two making a nest.
I give money to the food bank. Give clothes to the local charities. Give money to local homeless shelters. Give the change from my morning coffee to the guy standing outside with a cup. And feel guilty for not giving more, and for feeling annoyed when I can’t enjoy my bourgeois gathering places without loud encroachers. They’re invisible the rest of the year. I feel less guilty that way.