Rotten Peaches

Posted: May 20, 2007 in Acceptance, Compassion, Homelessness

I have strong convictions about what is right and wrong; what is acceptable; what is not acceptable. As a result, I have almost zero tolerance for behavior that is disrespectful, coarse, or otherwise unsavory, which is why this morning I found myself getting quite angry at something I was told.

Let me back up and start from the beginning.

Just around the corner from the homeless shelter there is a Chevron station. Most of the homeless go there to buy coffee, cigarettes, soda, snacks – you name it. And, since the homeless are part of the regular clientele, the management and staff there know most of the homeless by name.  

In the mornings, although I don’t stay at the homeless shelter, the Chevron one of the first stops I make. I buy my cup of hot chocolate, joke around with whoever happens to be on duty that morning and then I’m on my way. And the same is true for most of the homeless.

For the most part, Chevron employees have no problem with the homeless, but this morning I found out that one (or more) of the homeless have been leaving the bathrooms a mess. To me, this is not acceptable! Moreover it’s just downright disrespectful. There is absolutely no reason for something like this to be occurring. And, there is just no excuse for that type of behavior.

My biggest concern is that it will reflect badly on all the homeless.

It would be sad if the homeless were no longer allowed to shop there simply because someone didn’t know how to behave themselves in a somewhat decent fashion. More than that, it would be tragic if all of the homeless had to pay the price of not being allowed at the Chevron because of the actions of one or two individuals who have little or no respect for anyone or anything – including themselves.

It is these socially unpalatable actions of a handful of homeless that create animosities between both, the homeless and non-homeless, segments of our community. And, it is unseemly behavior of this sort that makes me understand why many in our community see the homeless in an unfavorable light; why many simply prefer to have nothing to do with the homeless; and why many have no desire to try and help the homeless.

The Assistant Manager told me this morning that they have an idea of who is creating the problems. He said that what would probably happen is that those individuals will no longer be allowed on the premises.

I think that’s the way it should be. An entire class of people shouldn’t have to be "exiled" simply because of a few people who chose to behave in an idiotic manner. There should be no "guilt by association." Let the guilty few reap the consequences of their own actions.

The Head Manager and I have built up a familiarity that gives my life a semblance of normality. Each time she sees me, she laughingly gives me "a hard time" so that my day will start out right. I, in turn, pretend like I’m highly offended and we both get a good laugh out of it.

Thankfully, she recognizes that not all homeless people are the "dregs of society." She knows that many of us – myself included – are trying desperately to raise our standard of living; longing desperately for the day when we’re no longer homeless. She knows just how hard we’re working at trying to re-introduce ourselves back into society. As a result, she is one of the first who will give the homeless the benefit of the doubt.

I can’t say that she and I are close friends, but we’re not just acquaintances either. We’re somewhere in the middle. And that’s a comfortable place to be.

I’d hate to think that the homeless will have to find somewhere else to buy their morning coffee because of the behavior of a couple of "rotten peaches."

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