REFLECTIONS/ OBSERVATIONS

Giving Away Money in Downtown Vancouver

I usually walk by homeless people and others who are on the street asking for money. Sometimes I don’t want to take the time to dig into my wallet. Often I don’t think it’s the best thing to give them money, because I judge that they’re going to use it to buy drugs or cigarettes. Occasionally I share a dollar or two.

Today I decided to go for a walk and give away $25 to homeless people. I planned to have the money ready and to give at least $1 to every street person who asked for money, without questioning how they were going to use it.

Why?  To see what I’d learn- and to offer a LITTLE help.

So I went to Canada Trust and exchanged $20 American for twenty-five loonies ($1).

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Then I went for a walk, on a sunny day in downtown Vancouver, British Columbia.

In the first block, I encountered a man with a can in front of him on the sidewalk and I dropped in $1. He stood and looked at me- and I asked if I could take his picture- to document my adventure, I thought. He said no, and got angry.

I felt like an ass.  What would a homeless person have to gain by having me take his picture?! “What an out-of-touch ass I am,” I thought.  “I’m off to a bad start on giving away money.”

I apologized.  He scolded me.  And I walked away, past another man on the street- whose picture I subtly took- to help tell my story.

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I stopped at the hostel, where I’m staying, to make sure I had locked my car, and then restarted my walk. The unfortunate man was still lying on the sidewalk,  with people and cars passing by.

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I chose a different direction to approach the man who had scolded me.  From a half block away, I noticed he was smoking a cigarette, had three dogs and was reading.  What a mix!

Putting aside my feeling like an ass 30 minutes earlier, I stood behind a sign 30 feet away and tried to take a picture.  He looked up from his book,  jumped up and angrily approached me.  “No pictures!”

“I’m sorry,” I said, and offered him $1. He accepted the money- and scolded me some more.

I gave him another $1- and he softened.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “No pictures.”

“I don’t even want pictures of my dogs!” he added.

“I’m sorry,” I repeated. He softened some more…and I walked away.

Within a block, I gave $1 to a homeless woman, who thanked me.

A couple of blocks later, I ran into a man and deposited $1 in his cup.  I noticed his  “I love culture” button,  and asked where he got it.

“I bought it,” he said.

“Could I take a picture of it?” I asked, trying to learn a lesson.

“Yes,” he said.

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“May I include you in the picture?”

“Sure,” he said, and he smiled.

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I said thanks and continued walking…past another person sleeping on the street, and I cautiously snapped this picture.

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I continued wandering…

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past Pink Lime hair salon….
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…past a coffee shop that was not a Starbucks…and toward the water, where the rent usually goes up and the homeless population decreases.

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I walked past the stadium of the Vancouver Whitecaps Soccer Team…
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and the British Columbia Lions of the Canadian Football League.  Again, I thought.. how little I know about Canada!!”

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I enjoyed exploring…

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My phone was using its battery life rapidly in the cold weather, so I stopped for coffee and the baristas charged my phone while I sipped and read the local diversity publication, called “La Source.”

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I was particularly taken by this article, citing CANADIAN FEAR of the Trump debacle!!

And then I walked on, with my phone newly charged.

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past interesting restaurants…
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and past a children’s clothing store…
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with cool graphics on the windows…
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past the Wall of Hope, a place for clothing to be exchanged…

I continued in a relatively high rent district, and then I gave $1 to a woman less than 20 years old, who I saw being confrontational in her style.  I surprised her by giving her $1 before she asked me.  So she asked for more, but I left it at $1 (and now I wish I’d added $1 or $2).

Then I heard this man playing “Stairway to Heaven.” I gave him $1, listened some more, asked if I could take some photos…and gave him another $1 before moving on.

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A block further I saw a woman in a wheelchair, one leg bandaged, assertively asking a couple for money.  They ignored her and she swore at them repeatedly, louder and  louder, wheeled around and started in the other direction, still yelling.  I wound my arm in front of her, showed $1, and she turned to me and smiled.

“Oh.  I thought you were the police. Thank you.”

“You’re welcome,” I said.

She was almost crying and added, “I’m trying! I just want a meal and a warm place.”

“I believe you,” I thought, and I walked toward the waterfront.

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past Steamworks Brew Pub…

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past a sign that reminded me that I’m in Canada- the home of Nicola McLachlan!

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I had to use a restroom, so ducked into this place, wth full intentions of using their facility and leaving, but they were so friendly  I had to order a beer.
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I walked past what must be a Chihuly glass sculpture…

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And when I came back to to the area in which I met the woman in the wheelchair, I saw her aggressively begging for money. I gave her another $1.

She said, “You already gave me some. I’m trying.”

“I know you are; her’s one more $1.  May I take your picture?”I asked.

“I look terrible!” she said. “But OK.” And she smiled.

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I had been out for almost three hours and was almost back to the hostel.  I dropped $1 into the can of another woman in a wheelchair and looked across the street to see a man I had given $1 to almost three hours ago, still sitting on the cold sidewalk.

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I deposited my last $5 in his bowl, next to his sign that read:”You don’t have to give me money if you don’t want to. Thank you. :)”

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I let myself get a tiny bit closer to some homeless people today- closer than when I walk by in a hurry, without time to get out my wallet . I felt their pain-and then I went home to my warm room and fell asleep.

I suspect that most of the people I interacted with on the street today are still out there. 😦

 

12 thoughts on “Giving Away Money in Downtown Vancouver

  1. David, I just love this post so much. I love the quest you gave yourself today and I love your honesty. Thank you for sharing your gift with some of the homeless people in Vancouver. Hopefully the money was used to buy some warm food to fill their bellies, but even if it wasn’t, you showed these people that they are not invisible, even they are deserving of our love. We will never know the circumstances in their lives that lead to them being homeless, but I am sure for most of them, being homeless wouldn’t be their choice. Thank you for sharing your love and your genuine goodness with Canada. xo

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    1. Nicola! I appreciate your note! Invisible. That’s the word I thought of a lot. We try to make them invisible. I usually don’t make eye contact, and I could feel that just doing that changed my relationship with that person. I also walked on Nicola St! Everyone in Canada knows you, as I expected. 🙂 Miss you!

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  2. Great post and excellent use of time. Next time, ask them their stories, see what you find out. I think of Canada as being more socialized and civilized, so it would be nice to know what leads their residents to homelessness. Maybe they are all from US.

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  3. Inspiring. I love how you spent your day. By simply acknowledging the presence of the people you encountered you made an impact on humanity. Bravo and maybe do it again sometime 😉 BTW. Elisabeth spent a week working with the homeless in San Francisco this past August (along with Ben and Eric). It changed her. She wants to go back and do it again… every summer if I’d let her.

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    1. Hi! Thanks. It was a fascinating day. Yes, I realized there are such small things we could that would distract them from their plight, uplift them for a bit. Bravo, J for doing that in SF! There are LOTS in SF! It’s a big deal to not be afraid of them. Thanks for praying pic. Wow! Happy Friday!!!

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  4. Love your story David! Thanks for your text so I could read this. Last year Ben and I were in San Diego and a homeless guy taught us a lesson. We were walking in an outdoor mall downtown after breakfast. I had a leftover box with me from the restaurant. A guy walked up to us and asked if he could have our leftovers. Wow! Why didn’t I think of that? So simple! So we saved our food we didn’t eat and continued to do this while we were there. I went to NYC this year and remembered what to do. It was heartbreaking there to see so many people on the streets but I was able to give warm food to some. I know the next step will be to take a homeless person for a meal, right? There are places in CdA that have soup kitchens and always welcome.e volunteers for the homeless and just families and people that are struggling.

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