Diane Dean-Epps: Newsom can fix homeless; meanwhile, more yarn
Acting as a sheet of sorts, the paper bag is mostly underneath him. He looks uncomfortable. And cold. And so, so tired. And that combination does it. I may have been walking past him, but I can’t look past him. Nor should I.
I see him.
That means, as I make my way toward the parking garage, my thought “overhang” is that I need to do something — anything — that will make him more comfortable.
I’m standing at my car looking at the multitude of things I consider necessary, which includes boxing gloves, hard-covered books, and fancy shoes that don’t exactly qualify as items providing warmth.
And then I spot it. It’s the one scarf I knitted for myself this year, in a field of 40 scarves that have gone to Operation Gratitude, a San Francisco shelter, and the friends and family I love with every fiber of my being.
While my Id, Ego, and Superego duke it out over my decision to approach a homeless stranger, about whom I know nothing, I outrun all three of them to where our homeless man is resting (lest we try to cast them off, these are “our” homeless people because they’re part of our community).
Before I can let my fear about this interaction taking a negative turn take hold, I ask him if I may give him my scarf. He lifts his head, looking at me with the most tired eyes I have ever, ever seen. I get that hot feeling in the back of my throat that precedes tears, and I lean over, scarf and heart in hand.
He reaches up and takes the scarf, feeling the softness of it, as I start babbling things like “love” and “you’re loved” and “feel love,” generally appearing as though I’m the one who needs help. I watch him as he fluffs the scarf, using it as a pillow, and then he rolls the other direction on his stony bed.
When I turn to walk back to my car I’m flooded with the oddest sensation of having done everything and nothing. I land somewhere in the middle, knowing I’ve done something.
Sure. It was just a scarf, but I think it’s easy to be dismissive of our small acts. After all, a scarf symbolizes warmth, love, and care.
As I drive away I reflect on this short snippet of time that’s been so incredibly moving and memorable. My first thought is that I’ve got to go and purchase a lot more yarn.
My next thought revolves around what it is to live a life well. As is the case with anything I do along the lines of service, that act of giving did far more for me than it did for him. Suddenly, I miss my dad like crazy.
It’s because of my World War II Stalag XVII-B POW father’s legacy that I can’t accept that anyone — let alone in America — would be denied basic creature comforts, or the help they need. His survival was, in large part, due to the fact that his fellow prisoners all shared everything with each other: food, clothing, packages from home, hope. Those stories are always with me, as is the moral imperative to help whenever possible.
There’s no cavalry coming … yet. However, at the request of Gov. Gavin Newsom, it’s being assembled in the form of the new California Commission on Homelessness & Supportive Housing, headed up by Mayor Steinberg. That is just what I would expect from our new governor.
I’ve long been a Gavin Newsom fan. Oh, sure, he’s an attractive man with a beautiful wife, and they have those adorable cherubs, but it was his work as a mayor and supervisor, when he reduced the San Francisco homeless population by providing the services they needed, that rendered me a forever fan.
Gavin has the know-how, the will, and the heart to solve the homelessness crisis.
In the meantime, I’ll keep knitting and gifting scarves, spinning some yarns along the way.
Diane Dean-Epps lives in Grass Valley.
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Nevada County is battling a fast-growing, hard-to-see and often-overlooked problem that threatens our youth: homelessness.