Thursday, May 08, 2003

Rags and Riches

There is an education to be had on the streets of downtown Calgary.

There is so much money flowing in those high rise downtown buildings. It's obvious everywhere, the people, the clothes, the offices, the cars, even the elevators (which have TV's in them). It's corporate capitalism at it's most successful. Yet all around the bases of these buildings, there are homeless people. All kinds of homeless people - ranging from retired old men spending their days collecting bottles from the garbage cans to people outright sleeping on the streets (snow collecting on thier blankets as they sleep beside shopping carts full of their stuff). Unlike others who may briefly journey through downtown, this contrast is something I have been unable to avoid; and for me it is vivid and ever present. I go in and I come out. Both worlds continually confront my senses.

Yesterday when I was delivering something on Stephen Avenue Mall an older man beside me had found a strawberry in the garbage can. He thought this was splendid, and lifted it up in its precious glory with a huge smile on his face. And then he did something I would never have expected - he offered it to me. Ofcourse, not given to taking food from strangers or eating out of the garbage, I declined, but the offer struck me... Here is someone who looks forward to finding such treasures as left over sandwich garnishes, in the garbage, and yet was still willing to offer it away to someone who could eat wherever she wanted. It was completely selfless. Gave me both something to think about and something to aspire too.

Compassion and generousity are arts that sometimes I think we lose sight of in this fast paced competition driven world of ours. During that brief moment in time, there was the weirdness of the proposed transaction, but in retrospect he offered me a greater gift than just a prized strawberry that day.

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