Life Lessons

bag lady

My daughter and three of her friends had an opportunity to be involved in an event at BC Place this past week. Four excited six year olds and I piled into my truck and headed downtown from North Vancouver. They sang songs, played clapping games and talked about meeting their favorite soccer players. As we approached the East Side, my daughter asked if we were getting close to the homeless people. We had driven this route before and had had some discussions about people living on the streets. For some reason it was a source of fascination and tonight was no different as the four of them had some interesting questions.

I’ve never been bothered by East Hastings St. Yes, you need to keep your head down and avoid eye contact but really these people are, for the most part, harmless. I’m not a big person but I’ve never felt threatened on the odd occasion I’ve had to walk through the Main and Hastings area. There are parts of Surrey that scare me more. During the Olympics in 2010, everyone was concerned about how it would look to the rest of the world but honestly, it’s just another part of what makes this city what it is. No, it’s not as pretty as Stanley Park or Grouse Mountain. It’s not an area you might want to take people to on a city tour. But, it’s a part of Vancouver that has always been there and will probably never change.

So as we stop at every red light between Clarke and Carrall my six year old tells me that one of her friends has never seen a homeless person and could I please explain it to her. At this point I am bombarded with questions from all four of them. Why are they homeless? Where do they sleep? Why are they selling stuff on the street? If they don’t have any stuff why are they selling what they have? What do they need money for? What do they eat? Why is that man waving his hands in the air like he’s swatting a bee? That man doesn’t have a shirt on. Can’t he afford clothes? Are they ALL homeless? I did my best to answer them and I would like to apologize to their parents if they now have a few new words in their vocabulary.

I know they are young, but it does reminded me that we live in a bubble out here in Deep Cove. It’s a lovely bubble, but it is just that. We drop off our unwanted clothes at the charity box near Safeway and many of the girls collect money for charity at their birthdays parties instead of gifts, but the reality is that they have no idea why somebody would even need our charity. They all have comfortable homes, clothes and never miss a meal (or a snack for that matter). It’s a hard thing for them to understand at this point in their lives and just driving through the East Side once or twice doesn’t go far enough in explaining it.

So as we turn the corner at Hastings and Carrall Street and the scenery changes, the questions come to an end and the topic turns to what they will eat at the soccer game. Can we have a hot dog and popcorn? Do they have ice cream at the stadium? These questions I can answer. The girls may have moved on, but their questions, and my realization of how little they know of the world outside of our neighborhood, have me thinking. Is there more that I could be doing to educate my young daughter? I’m doing my best to show her The Best Things in Life, but should I be doing more to show her the other side of life?

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