I live in Orlando,a place billed as the happiest place on earth. A place where families easily spend upwards of $400 a day on Theme Park tickets alone. The neighborhood I live in is very nice, we have A rated schools, top restaurants and just last week hosted Tiger Woods in his Bay Hill victory. We are a city with contrasts, with deep pockets of poverty, the highest levels of childhood hunger in our country all while we have our fantasyland backdrop.
Behind the cornerstone of our neighborhood, our town square if you will: Starbucks, there is a beautiful lake with a dock so you can over look gorgeous Big Sand Lake. Currently, under this dock, I know for a fact that there are three people who have set up camp. They live there, and last night it was 35 degrees.
They ask for cigarettes from patrons at Starbucks, drink the free coffee from Publix, and use the facilities at both. Two of them are visibly mentally ill, besides having long conversations with them both, I often see them not only talking to themselves, but at times in a very lively manner. I've bought them sandwiches and sodas, once our twice and I know my husband provides them many a cancer stick (the hubs smoking, the bane of my existence!)
When it got cold a couple of weeks ago, I grabbed an old ski jacket, some wool socks and some work boots from the boys closets and tossed them in my trunk, hoping to see one the they two guys and get them some warm clothing. The woman who lives under the dock is tiny, and one of the young girls who works at Starbucks brought her in some clothing. I had not seen them in a while, and the items were somehow removed from my trunk and put in the garage.
Yesterday, as I sat in my car at a red light about one mile from the Starbucks, I saw one of the men panhandling at the light. I grabbed a dollar from my wallet and asked if he was still at the dock, his response was "Yes, M'am." The light turned over 3 times, before I could get through, no one else gave him anything, then at the last moment, something amazing happened. From a green jalopy, and I mean a broke down, rusted out, no a/c, windows either stay up or all the way down (sounds like my old car!) a young guy jumps out, pops his trunk, pulls out a bag of chips and a bag of peanuts. The light turns green and people start honking and losing their minds. The kids yells at the homeless gentleman,"Dude, I got ya!" and throws the bags at him, like a perfect pass at the end of a wonderfully important football game. He catches them both, with a huge smile on his face, he shouts back "Thank you, man!" The kid barely hears him as he jumps back in his car and drives off as the other drivers honk in annoyance.
My general annoyance with humanity as a whole is staved for a few minutes. I rush home, get the coat, socks and boots and leave them on the chair behind Starbucks, where I buy my $3 coffee, which is a punch in the gut as I drive off on my ridiculously fancy foreign SUV. I know, I know.
I hope he got the stuff I left, I hope he was able to keep warm and I hope someday he finds the help he needs.