As I turned the car into the parking lot opposite the hospital I could hear it. That unmistakable thump, thump, thump,thump,thump. I parked the car and it got louder. It was right overhead. The helicopter. My husband and I got out of the car.It was landing on the roof of the hospital. Someone had got up in the morning with a plan for the day. That plan would not be happening now.
It takes us about an hour to drive to Toronto . It could have been us having an accident. One of us or both of us could have been badly injured. It was the first long weekend of the spring, known as the “beer and barbecue” weekend. I knew there would be others whose plans for the day would never happen.
St. Michael’s hospital is a large inner city teaching hospital originally established by the Sisters of St. Joseph in 1892, with the founding goal of taking care of the sick and poor of Toronto’s inner city. The sick and the poor are still to be found in this neighborhood. As we walked toward the hospital entrance I could see one person sleeping on the grass of the park; two others sitting on the steps of a Church with their sleeping bags wrapped around their legs.
Here are the homeless, the addicts and the down and outers. Some ask for money, some have conversations with people I do not see. Most of them are living on the edge. None of them knew when they were young, no matter how difficult their childhood may have been, that they would end up here outside St. Mike’ clinging to a desperate existence. In the foyer of the hospital there was an interesting character. He had shoulder length graying hair and a beard but was clean and wearing fairly decent clothing. He was sitting on one of the chairs and talking to someone that was not visible to me. Then I noticed his feet. He had on pair of bright red socks with non slip white stars on the soles of the socks. He suddenly sat up and said loudly “Oh sure! Blame it on the homeless people.” He wasn’t talking to me or to anyone else who was walking through. When he was a boy he never planned to be here in a hospital talking to someone who only exists in his own mind.
I do not look down on these people. When I see them I am reminded that there but for the grace of God go I.
A book that I would highly recommend is James Bowen’s book “A Street Cat Named Bob”. This is not a cute cat story but a story of a injured cat and an addicted human who rescued each other. His other book “A Gift From Bob.” will give you a clear picture of what it is like to be a homeless person. It certainly opened my eyes and now I never look at the homeless the same way.