This post appeared here two years ago — which now seems like ancient history. But life for the disadvantaged has only gotten a lot worse. Witnessing, gratitude and generosity are more important than ever this 2020 holiday season.
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Keep it in perspective, dear people. A few snapshots:
Bank-sponsored luncheon at a high-end downtown hotel. Eating most but not all of my salmon and crab cake entree with broccolini on the side. Listening to the featured speaker talking about women “in the middle” of the wealth spectrum, which she defines as having ~ $1 million in liquid assets. The banquet waitress leans down to take my plate and whispers do I care for coffee. De rigueur black pants and white shirt. Tired eyes. I think, “She’s nowhere near the so-called middle. What must she think of all this?”
Shopping excursion to Home Goods in San Diego with my young adult son. Rummaging through the “art” section for something to cheer up his living room wall. Perusing the kitchen section for a cutlery tray. Overhearing a couple discussing whether to spend $20 on the 6-place dish set or $25 on the 4-place dish set in the color the wife really loves. “It’s only five dollars more,” she says. “But it’s two settings less,” he replies, “Those are good enough.”
Cozy dinner with a girlfriend in a neighborhood Italian place. Emerging from the warmth of the dining room and laughing, a bottle of wine gone. Swiping our screens for Lyft and Uber. A half-clothed man stands 30 feet away in a pile of rags, food wrappers, and cardboard. Yelling incoherently yet urgently into the fog wind. Beating his chest with his fist.
In front of my house on trash night. Bringing another bag of garbage to add to the bin. Addled woman, not one of our recycling regulars, approaches from the other direction. Sees me and swiftly, graciously lifts the lid for me. No eye contact, head bowed in deference. “There aren’t any cans or bottles in the recycling,” I say. “All’s I want is a plastic bag,” she says, raking her hand through the papers and cartons. “All’s I want is a plastic bag, a plastic bag,” she mumbles, staggering across the street.
Sleeping, swooning heroin users all in a row on 16th south of Market. Sleepy, sad housecleaner mother and toddler huddled on MUNI at 9 pm. White-haired old woman in front of Walgreen’s holding out an upturned hand and whimpering, “Please.” Man trying to zip up his dirty, overstuffed suitcase after changing clothes on the sidewalk. Girl sleeping beneath our bay window overhang.
Everyone has a share of struggle and woe. Many have it worse than you or me. If we can’t spare a dime, we can spare a morsel of compassion.
Photo Credit: Caitlyn Wilson
Author and RealEstateTherapy curator Cynthia Cummins has been devoted to homeowners and homebuyers for three decades and counting. Visit KindredSFhomes.com for more information on San Francisco real estate.