Realistic Expectation by Kaze Gadway
“You know you don’t have to eat that.” The man laughs softly as I bite into a pasty handed to me by a street person.
“I’m okay,” I grin. “I like people who share.”
“I do too. It makes my day when someone is generous.” He waves at us and walks away.
Switching from a world of plenty to a world of scarcity and back again has been the pattern for my adult life. My assumptions keep turning upside down.
When I am with well dressed, well rested, well fed people, the conversation stays on small irritants. I fall into the assumption that they are not interested in profound things so I do not often raise subjects beyond the petty. That is so judgmental.
Perhaps because life seems to be ready to collapse within itself at any hardship on the streets, I have deep conversations with the homeless. Perhaps, for all of us, it is when our understanding and circumstances collapse that we reach for meaning and substance. So it should not surprise me that those sleeping on the sidewalk are more ready to talk about change and expectations.
Yet, my first profound conversations started with people like me, with those who have the leisure time to read, to attend college and sit around to ask questions. Most of my closest friends with whom I talk deeply are those who are advantaged.
Now I am beginning to understand that the comfortable people with whom I talk have had these disturbing moments—an alcoholic father, a mentally ill relative, a fire in which everything has been destroyed, and encounters with violence. Many are those who live with a façade over deep thinking. If they do not know how to cope, then they spread pseudo calm over their faces as though to say “nothing bothers me.” Or “I can cope as long as others don’t know how bad it is.”
Those on the streets have more realistic expectations for the most part and they no longer have to look unmoved. Their pain is out there for everyone to see.
It is not that the poor are better than the comfortable. I find it easier to talk to those who don’t feel they have to posture.
When I say that I am blessed by talking with the street people, I mean that they keep me honest.