“Uptown, in penthouse number three
Uptown, just my baby and me”
– Uptown by Roy Orbison
Well, after 34 years living in a century farm home, our big move to the city didn’t land us in a penthouse, but we’re happy with our spacious two-bedroom apartment.
As we walk through nearby Victoria park, we’re greeted by a scene reminiscent of a 19th century Currier and Ives print. Folks, like ourselves, seeking a welcomed getaway from the stress of the day’s fast lifestyle.
Parents spreading out blankets in picnic fashion for their young toddlers to enjoy; athletic young men laughing while playing touch football; people crisscrossing the park on bikes; a group of seniors strolling leisurely while enjoying an ice cream… bought from a vendor, peddling his way among the throngs.
“People dancing, people laughing / a man selling ice cream” – Saturday in the Park by Chicago
Yet, close by, we’re reminded that this idyllic scene is not without hardship. You’d have to be wearing rose-coloured glasses not to see.
Underneath a large maple tree, on the edge of the park, there’s a blanket covering a human form. And later, as we entered a nearby variety store, we’re greeted by a homeless person with cap in hand – while inside a sad scene unfolds before us.
A distraught woman is on the floor, dumping out the contents of her oversized bag looking for $5.55 to pay for her purchase – staff and customers warily standing back. Not wishing to extend this pathetic situation any longer, I ask the owner to add it to my order. She turns around and mumbles a thank you, but it’s clear she unaware of where she is.
Then, I see my mistake… her items of ice cream and bubble gum. I mean, who wastes their limited funds on such trivialities – unless your priorities are badly misplaced? The hatless man giving us a suspicious look as we leave.
Maybe, I shouldn’t be surprised; yet, I also realize that I’m not qualified to pass judgement. All I know is that there are people with genuine hardship, through no fault of their own – often including their children – lives greatly diminished by low expectations. But, how to tell the difference between real need and scam artists… everywhere on the economic ladder?
“Don’t assume everything on the surface is what you see /
Cause that classmate just lost her mother
And that taxi driver’s got a PhD” – Everybody’s Got a Story by Amanda Marshall
Next day, looking out, the sun burns through the morning fog to show a church’s steeple, as my faith reminds me that there are no mistakes. What if I was meant to be in that store, at the exact moment that woman was looking for a miracle?
Who knows if she needed some sign that the world still cared and I was the unlikely instrument to show it… maybe the best $5.55 investment of both our lives!