There but for the grace of God.

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.

Over the years St. Mike’s has been added on to many times. The top of the new addition on the upper right is where the helicopter landed.

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.

22 Comments Add yours

  1. I’ve been meaning to read A Street Cat Named Bob. Maybe it’s time I finally did.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      Gayle you would like it I feel certain. That is the first book and there are more including a young persons version of the original Streetcat Bob that is ideal for kids 10 and up. I cannot recommend Streetcat Bob highly enough. It is a short read and i read it on a flight from West Palm Beach to Toronto and I laughed and cried the whole way through it. I have given out 10 copies of the book to friends and no one has ever said they were not moved by it.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Say no more, you have me convinced!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. TCast says:

    Thanks so much for sharing your story, Anne. These are people that we often see but sometimes choose to ignore. The situation is increasing here in Melbourne inner city too. I feel for them especially now that winter is nearly here and for the whole week it will be raining.
    Regards, Teresa

    Liked by 2 people

    1. anne leueen says:

      I can understand concern at the onset of winter. Here in Ontario the winter can be cold enough over night to kill someone sleeping out with no protection.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. TCast says:

        I heard about your weather. I haven’t been there but I would like to visit one day. Maybe one summer… Hopefully

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I always feel the base of this blog is in teaching life, this is another that kind of post. Yes each day I realize how blessed we are. A hard earthquake can make anyone homeless.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. anne leueen says:

      I like that phrase ” a hard earthquake”. It can me a literal earthquake or a hurricane or tornado or just one of life’s hard knocks. Thank you for this comment Subbashini.

      Like

  4. Junieper2 says:

    Thank you for this story – it makes me ad that the rich western world does not do more to take care of the ones who need more help. How did you find my blog? (It’s part of my curiosity!)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      I don’t know how I found you to be honest. Perhaps following a link through another bloggers post?

      Like

      1. Junieper2 says:

        Thanks for writing me back – I wanted to invite you to All Seasons – since you visited that little blurb – Welcome! I would love it if you link up an image before Friday noon to
        https://thejeshstudio.wordpress.com/2019/05/22/spring-rain/
        Have a great week:)

        Liked by 1 person

        1. anne leueen says:

          Ah! now I know it was on Cee’s list of challenges that I found you. Enjoy your week and I will try to find an image before Friday. Thanks.

          Like

          1. Junieper2 says:

            You may also link your current post:)

            Liked by 1 person

  5. Irene says:

    Oh, so true. Growing up, we had very little but always had a roof over our heads. I am grateful for that.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      I am the same. I had a tough period of no money in my twenties but I always had a roof over my head.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Tina Schell says:

    A beautiful message in this one Anne. Thank you for reminding us that it could surely have been our fate just as easily

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      Thank you for this comment Tina.

      Like

  7. cagedunn says:

    I loved Bob’s stories.
    I’ve heard similar stories. so many people live on the underside.
    My first foster wasn’t a street kid, nor the second. The next 30 were street kids, brought in to learn ‘life skills’ before they were approved for ‘assistance’ (which was only financial).
    I hope I taught them enough to survive without the need to rely on others.
    And how do you get through to a kid from the underside? Well, it wasn’t me. That took an understanding I’m not sure many humans are capable of, and I had to work to keep us fed and sheltered and safe. But I also fostered dogs, cats, horses, rabbits, etc. Usually for socialisation issues. Sounds the same, is the same.
    Every animal fostered became part of the family, because they were deemed ‘irredeemable’. The kids understood, that was the tag placed on them, handed down from on high.
    The problem remains, the numbers get higher, the means for dealing with the people no one wants to see …

    Liked by 3 people

    1. anne leueen says:

      Oh my goodness. Thank you for sharing this part of your life. I admire your ability to take in these foster kids. I used to know another person who did this and she told me many stories about how challenging it was. Kids who have never had any kind of supervision, who have not learned how to eat at a table with others, how to use a toilet and flush it. I hope your kids did learn how to survive. So many of the homeless I see in the city are not taking the assistance of shelters in the winters which in Toronto can be cold enough to freeze someone to death. They fear getting trapped in a shelter or being abused . Mental illness increases these fears. My husband had a friend who worked with a native peoples organization and they would drive the inner city streets, especially in winter, to find people sleeping out and give them something a hot drink and the offer of shelter overnight. These realities are so hard. I feel so privileged. I have in my twenties been hard up but always had a roof over my head and enough to eat. Thank you for taking the time to leave this comment. I appreciate it very much.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. kunstkitchen says:

    Thanks for this story about the homeless. This week I read a long article on the homeless situation here. The numbers are staggering and rising rapidly. Especially for people who are working, but have low paying jobs. There more families with children who are homeless.
    When I was taught in the public schools, the statistics were very hard to hear on how many students were homeless and how many were getting lunch at school.
    Once, at one school I worked in, a young boy told me his stomach was hurting. I looked at him and saw he was in pain. I asked if he had breakfast that morning. His answer was “No.” I knew that he was hungry. The rules in the school district did not allow teachers to give students food. I felt heartsick. So I looked at the clock. His lunch time was next in the day, which I told him and tried to be comforting. It wasn’t enough. I’ll never forget this experience.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. anne leueen says:

      Thank you for sharing this story. It is heartrending. Somehow it just seems so wrong and so unfair.

      Liked by 2 people

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