…in the fertile ground of Beltane…
*I preface this by saying that I posted part of this to facebook today so sorry if it’s a repeat for anyone*
I have an amazing job doing something I love for a company that I am truly proud to be a part of. Most of the time, I get to work from home. I go into the office once or twice a week most weeks. Some weeks, like this one, I’m there more often. We have two office spaces actually right now, one around the corner from the other.
Both are in the financial district of San Francisco, not far from Union Square. It’s the kind of area where you can’t really buy lunch, even a simple salad, for less than $10. The stores are all the kind that don’t know that fat people or poor people exist. The office space I work out of is positioned in the slightly less posh (of the two locations) area. Our neighbors are Walgreens on one side and a brand new Good Vibrations on the other, with a Kinko’s and a Chipotle rounding out the block.
Step around the corner and head up to the other office though and it’s like entering a world I have never understood, nor been a part of. By day, it’s a bustling shopping district for the well to do. Walk the block and a half from the corner and you will pass stores for H&M, Dior, Prada, Coach, Burberry. Across the street is Brooks Brothers and Cartier.
When I’m working in that second office, particularly when I am going to be over there all day, I walk up Post St in the very early morning hours and I’m struck by the profound dichotomy that is a daily part of this area.
I’m usually walking to the office from BART somewhere between 5:30 and 6 am, when all of the stores are still tightly shut against the night, their eyes closed to the dark world that exists on that same street, even in their own doorways, once the sun goes down.
The homeless make themselves temporary shelters in the alcoves and doorways, beds made of cardboard rummaged out of trash cans to soften the concrete, sometimes cardboard as their only blanket, or as a makeshift wall to offer them the illusion of privacy.
As I’m walking up that street, they are waking, pulling themselves up out of whatever dreams find them in such a harsh bed, gathering their belongings and dragging themselves up into the slowly growing light of day, to disappear with the light. Some might position themselves strategically to beg for a bit of food or a few dollars from the commuters just beginning to move about the city, some shuffle off to try to get a day’s work or to check on friends, or to aimlessly wander, never staying in one place too long so that they aren’t rousted by angry shopkeepers or hassled by police called in by people nervous about their own safety without ever giving thought to the safety of those who sleep on the streets.
People tell me that the homeless are lazy, that they’re dangerous, that they choose to be on the streets…and all of that may be true for some. I hear about people trying to pass laws to take away their right to own “things” or to sleep or gather in certain places and I can’t understand the mentality. With so much waste in this country it seems ludicrous that we should have a significant homeless population at all.
We have houses sitting empty, office buildings with no one in them, abandoned malls and military bases. Imagine if we took one empty mall, used cubicle partitions to section off small spaces for one person, slightly bigger spaces for families…a space that they could call their own, a space that is warm and dry and safe. Imagine if we put in showers. Imagine if we used one of the stores to set up a clothing “store” where stores and manufacturers could drop off items they might otherwise throw out, and average citizens could drop off items they no longer want and we put the homeless to work sorting and stacking/folding/hanging/”selling” those articles of clothing. And imagine another one where we did the same thing with food and other necessities. Imagine if the residents could earn “coin” through other jobs like cleaning the compound, or taking classes to learn new skills and could spend that “coin” in the clothing store to improve their wardrobe? Imagine if those classes were taught by people volunteering in a “class room” we built in one of the stores.
Imagine someone who tonight is sleeping in a cardboard bed in the doorway of the Prada store walks into a job interview in six months in clothes they earned, with skills they learned because someone turned a vacant property into a place where hope is born.
Today is Beltane, the Pagan holiday of fertility and creativity. It is a day for planting seeds and giving them what they need to grow. Today, this is my seed. This is what I want to see come to fruition. I can’t make it happen on my own. I don’t have the money or property to do it. I have the ideas. I have the ability to write up ideas, to flesh out rules, to help plan and even to help implement…so, I’m planting this seed here. May the fertile ground of the internet see it to fruition. May Yule find a pregnant promise ready to birth change.