Connecting to others is a crucial part of being happy. No question.
If connections to others are so important, what would it be like to have next to none?
The homeless have very few connections. They have friends and family members, but they also have heavier burdens to bear.
Tomorrow is Veteran’s Day. 40% of homeless men are veterans. 200,000 veterans sleep without shelter on any given night.
I’ve been reading about Buddhism, and it embraces compassion and a concept referred to as bodhichitta, which is basically, taking in another’s pain with the hope of alleviating some of it. With the idea that I could make someone feel better (in a small way) I went to talk to Diana today. She’s a homeless woman who stands on the island off of the Carmel Mountain Road exit before it hits Rancho Carmel Drive. I edited part of the interview out, below is the transcript from same:
Diana: “My voice doesn’t sound very good when it’s taped though.”
Natalie: That’s okay, I’m going to write it down.
Diana: First of all, we do not make $500 a day. We are either sleeping in bushes, or a car. My husband and I, we’ve got three German Shepherds and we’re sleeping in an 87′ white Toyota pickup. It’s me, my husband, and our three German Shepherds. We won’t let them go, they’re our babies. We’re desperate to find a place to live, and also some of the people just… I know a bunch that live down by the canal, it starts at Balboa Avenue and ends at Garnet Avenue, there’s a bunch of of homeless in there. So when you don’t have a lot of money coming in, and you’re hungry, or let’s say you need gas for your vehicle, that’s what this helps with. I don’t try to gauge these people, that would be so wrong, and then nobody would want to give me anything to help me out. We just need some help right now, some temporary help and I’ll I need is a place to live for a month (crying) so I can get our lives back in shape. I think that is about how long it would take to do it… A lot of people look at ya, and give you dirty looks, I had some guy yesterday who flipped me off. He honked his horn, and I thought he was waving, and then I saw it changed to a finger at me. And I thought, “That’s his I.Q., I guess.” There are people that purposely try to hit you. With their side view mirrors. If you’re standing with your back to them, they’ll come as close as they can hoping that their side mirror will hit ya. I had one guy one time give me a grocery bag, full of stuff. And I said, “Thank you, and God bless you.” When I looked into it, it was all his trash.
Natalie: Wow. Ha, wow.
Diana: But then there’s other people. The kind people who share the gift of love with us. And that’s through Christ. And he’s touched their hearts and their minds, and those are the ones that help us out. Well, I don’t know what else… I mean there’s lots of stuff.
Natalie: Yeah, I have some questions. What’s your name?
Natalie: Diana? And where were you born?
Diana: I grew up in Long Beach, I’m from San Diego.
Natalie: How long have you been homeless?
Diana: Two years.
Natalie: And do you have any children?
Diana: They’re grown. Yeah, one of the reasons my husband and I came out here from Colorado, is because when Obama got elected, it screwed things up as far as the economy, but also the governor of Colorado was going to be leaving office and he says, “I don’t care if I leave a legacy,” so he just left office and that was it. But what happened was the governor shut down a lot of the gas and electrics. My husband, he was a rough-neck, almost thirty years in, and you know, I don’t know. It’s just a mess. Alright, you’re going to have to go back on that question. I’ve been going to a mental health doctor and I’ve recently developed short term memory, so what was I talking about?
Natalie: We were talking about your kids.
Diana: Oh, yes. That’s right. We came out here because I could see my oldest daughter Henrietta Rose. So I could see her and other people. My other daughter committed suicide three and a half years ago. My oldest one. And I couldn’t stand being in that town anymore, or in Colorado. I wanted to come back here. And my youngest daughter lives in City Heights, but we can’t live with her because it doesn’t allow pets. It’s an apartment building. But I tell ya, if someone would just help temporarily, with a place to stay (crying) so we don’t get rained on, and freeze at night… We’d be so grateful. And then I know we can make things good, and get on our feet. By a month’s time, by the end of the month. I used to work as a executive assistant to the vice president of a development, construction and real estate company. And they were the last ones that went belly-up, they ended up filing bankruptcy. And that was a shame. They were the last developer that did that. The town dropped. People-wise, they laid off about 6,000 people. And that’s what our economy was built on right there.
Natalie: What town in Colorado was that? The one you were living in…
Diana: Grand Junction.
Natalie: Grand Junction. I went to Boulder…
Diana: Oh, yeah?
Natalie: Yeah, for school.
Diana: That’s on the eastern slope. We’re on the western slope. (Horns honking) Well, that’s what you get for running a red light!
Diana: They do that, I don’t know why, this spot is no different than any other spot. This spot is a new one for me, a friend of mine told me about it. And although I haven’t made a lot of money, I have had some people share their love with me.
Natalie: Good, that’s good. So, do you work? Do you have odd jobs?
Diana: I have an on-call job. Someone that met me on the island gave it to me. It’s electronic assembly, putting P.C. boards together, but it’s only when he calls me.
Diana: I only had two days in October, I didn’t have anything in September, and I had a couple of days in August. And so far, he hasn’t called me for November. He desperately needs someone to take care of his bookkeeping and put all of his things together. I told him I could help with that and he said he would think on that one. So next time I go, I’ll help out with that, so that he can find what he’s looking for. He’s a real nice guy, and I’m glad that he does have me coming to help him out. It’s a good $60 for the day which means I don’t have to be out here. That’s good, that’s good for me.
Natalie: How much do you get a day doing this? About $60?
Diana: Um, no. Right now, things have really gone down quite a bit because of the economy and people are holding on tight. Also, because the gas prices are so high. The other day I made $12.
Natalie: All day? For all day?
Diana: No, for about three hours.
Diana: And I like to wave to the people. I like to smile and say,”Good morning” to them. So they can see me from their car and they can know that I’m not some bad person out here, because I’m not. I just don’t have all the luck right now.
Natalie: What do you need… What do you want during the day from other people? Do you want money, food, is there something you need like sunscreen, or deodorant, or…?
Diana: Deodorant, oh yeah.
Diana: I make sure, other people make sure, too… I got a little brown bag, in my backpack there, they give me some goodie bags, with a toothbrush, toothpaste, sometimes deodorant. Dental floss, but I don’t need it, I’ve got dentures. Sometimes, it would be nice to get something else to eat in there besides a health food bar. Those health food bars, not all of them are good. I just keep going back to the same thing, I just want a place to stay. So we don’t have to sleep outside at night, so we don’t have to worry about the cops waking us up at 2:30 in the morning, like what happened the other night… We do go to L.A. Fitness, and that’s only a dollar a day. We can take showers there.
Natalie: Do you ever get scared?
Diana: On the island? No. I get nervous when the cops come around. But I don’t get scared. You know I’ve been doing it long enough to know how to do it and stay safe, but there’s always that freak accident. I just pray every day that God will give us a place to stay. (crying) I think that’s my biggest heartache. You can’t really function.
Natalie: What makes you happy?
Diana: My dogs. And other people’s dogs. And little kids that will hand me a dollar out the window. “Here, lady.” “Well, thank you, little guy.”
Diana: “Well, thank you. And God bless you, and your family.” That makes me happy.
Natalie: What do you think the biggest misconception of homeless people is?
Diana: I think the biggest one is that we make a lot of money out here, and we don’t. I don’t like counting my money out here, but I’m guessing… because someone gave me a ten… I have $25, maybe $30 in my pocket. And actually, that’s about right, for right now. I was making about $60 in about three hours time before, but that’s gone down. And there’s one time I made $90, and that was in La Jolla.
Natalie: Haha, yeah, that makes sense. What would you change about the world if you could change one thing?
Diana: If I could change one thing I would like to have other people smile at other people and say, “Hello.”
Diana: “Hello.” “Good morning.”
Natalie: That’s a great one.
Diana: A lot of people, you know, they see my sign and they sign, “Ugh, not another one.” I have another sign that would have been perfect for today, and it says, “Give thanks to Jesus every day for your blessings, big and small.” Maybe I should be flying that one right now, but the Lord’s taking care of me. He’s touching their hearts and their minds.