Tag Archive: homeless


Oh, so many opportunities to photograph “droppings” presented themselves to me this morning, but I resisted. I am talking literally, but noticing poop and deciding whether to take a picture has become symbolic, too. Yesterday was quite the roller coaster ride of emotions as it started great, went a little downhill, plummeted down into the depths, got a bit better, then back to great and ended with uncertainty. This morning I got the answer and while it wasn’t what I hoped to hear, it wasn’t the end of the world, either. Anytime we work toward a goal we’re going to encounter setbacks. The question is, when we look back on the tough days will we laugh or cry?

If we give up, we fail, and may always look back on that time with regret and tears. But if we push through and succeed, we can look back on the hard times and laugh…or at least smile because we overcame.  We are who we are because of what we’ve been through and how we’ve chosen to view each situation.

As we go through life we meet all kinds of people, some who are impressive and some not so much. What I’m learning is that everyone has a story and we need to try to be understanding when we have to deal with people who aren’t necessarily the easiest to be around. Instead of just assuming that a person is mean-spirited or obnoxious or unintelligent, we should remember that there’s usually a good reason for their behavior. If we knew the story of their lives, we’d see why they are who they are.

As I walked along, I started noticing things that made me wonder what happened to make them that way.

I’m sure even “the tree” has a story. I’ve walked past it many times and taken its picture from many different angles, but until this day I’ve never wondered why it is the way it is. How many times have we done that with a person we’ve known to be a certain way for as long as we can remember? At one point, the tree was young and full of life just as the people who seem to have given up. It’s too late for the tree, but not for people we can take an interest in and help to find new hope for happiness.

Every time I’ve walked under this bridge, even months before starting the walking “group”, there was a pillow up on the ledge. I even took a photo of it for the Weekly Photo Challenge: Refuge. I’d never given its placement much thought until it was gone. Once it was no longer there, I had to wonder how it got there to begin with (because there was no visible way to easily get to the ledge), who took it down and whether they were using the filthy thing to rest their head on as they slept.

Sometimes the question isn’t so much how, but why. I didn’t fully capture the angle of the slope, but one wrong step getting on or off the bench and you’d be the top story on the evening news.

It began to rain…a lot. But I remembered a section of the railing further up the path that I had always wondered how it got that way. The path isn’t big enough for vehicles to drive on so I pondered how a person on foot or riding a bike could’ve possibly done this.

It’s amazing how much damage people can do, either intentionally or without thinking. It can come in the form of abuse, bullying, teasing, or simply standing by and doing nothing while another does the damage. While it’s up to the victim to decide if they’re going to let the experience break them or make them stronger, we can be there to support them so someday they can look back and laugh because they’ve overcome.

I remember one of many incidents in middle school (back in the day it was called junior high) that made me feel completely humiliated. There was a dance coming up and since no one had asked me to go with them I decided to write a note and invite what I thought was a nice boy to go with me. As I entered the auditorium where we all hung out after lunch, a roar of laughter rose from the large group of kids already there. In the hands of one of the more aggressive boys was the note and he was reading it…loud enough for everyone to hear. I’m sure my face was as red as my hair and if my best friend hadn’t been there with me, I probably would’ve cried making matters worse. Needless to say, I did not go with that boy to the dance. While I can still remember the pain and embarrassment of that day, I can laugh about it now because I see things from a different perspective.

As I headed back, I stopped for a few minutes under the bridge to take a break from the downpour. That’s when I saw this tent. Under normal conditions it probably would’ve been protected from the elements, but I’m sure it was getting soaked. Here was a person who certainly had a story. What were they like as a kid and how did they get here from there?

We begin our lives with a few tendencies and characteristics, but as we come in contact with others we start to react and change. If we can take all of our childhood experiences and teach our children to come through difficult situations stronger and to be the ones who lift up those who have been pushed down, then everything we went through was worth it. Even though there will always be abusers and bullies, we can do something to minimize their impact by showing our kids a better way to treat people.

Some of the most kind and compassionate people I’ve ever met have experienced pain because of others’ insecurities which may very well have been caused by someone who hurt them, too. It can be a vicious cycle, but some, because they don’t want others to experience what they went through, break that cycle by choosing to make a difference. They look for ways to be supportive and caring. They have no tolerance for behavior that would hurt another and teach those around them by example, including their children. Though they went through things that no one should have to, they make the world a better place because they chose to overcome and that is a beautiful thing.

“All the adversity I’ve had in my life, all my troubles have strengthened me…You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.” Walt Disney

“There are two ways of exerting one’s strength; one is pushing down, the other is pulling up.”             Booker T. Washington

I was beginning to wonder if I’d ever finish this post and I finally got the inspiration I needed from witnessing an act of kindness performed by an elementary school student at a basketball game which led to a brief converastion with his dad which finally put all the pieces together in my head. Just goes to show the little things really do make a difference. 😉

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Even though it wasn’t an official walking group day, I headed out for a quick stroll around the neighborhood before taking my son to his basketball game. Since I was staying pretty close to home I wasn’t sure if I’d find too many interesting things to take pictures of. I don’t normally enjoy photographing buildings and I was surrounded, but was pleasantly surprised, though, that several things caught my eye. I guess I shouldn’t have been since we always find what we’re looking for if you’re paying attention. For example, the grass not two steps outside the door to our building.

Or the flowers already blooming on the tree…

…five feet away from the tree that was having a hard time letting go of its leaves.

Nature was spreading out and taking over, forming a canopy of intricate branches and deep, vibrant green.

Didn’t notice the almost hidden view of the stream until after I had passed it. Once my brain registered what I’d seen out of the corner of my eye, I back-tracked to see if I could get a good shot. This one’s not perfect. Maybe I’ll try again next time.

Another sign Spring is just around the corner.

Love these trees. They’re everywhere around here and each one is different.

Happy with the images safely stored in my camera and realizing it was almost time to leave, I headed back home. That’s when I saw him. He was sitting on the sidewalk next to a medical building across the street from our apartment, surrounded by his backpack, other bundles, and a sign that said FOOD. My initial reaction was to immediately turn left and cut across the parking lot to avoid him instead of continuing on past him. Just as quickly as the desire to escape an encounter with him entered my mind, so did a pang of guilt. I’ve been talking about treating people, even the ones society has forgotten or looks down upon, with respect and kindness and have even stepped way out of my comfort zone to interact some of them.

So why was my first reaction to this man to go out of my way to avoid interacting with him? Perhaps it was a hint of fear because I wasn’t used to seeing homeless people so close to my home and he didn’t appear to be fully capable of making wise decisions, but I know it was mostly because I didn’t want him to ask me for anything. Even though telling him I didn’t have anything would’ve been the truth, I knew I’d be uncomfortable. Yet there he was in my path, a person just like me, so I kept going. He did ask me for something as I approached, something I could give. Instead of asking for food or money or a cigarette, all he wanted was directions to the nearest place where he could get a cup of coffee.

It was a good reminder that it’s much easier to tell other people what they should do than to actually do it ourselves, but if we want the respect of others we must talk the talk AND walk the walk. We are an example to everyone we come in contact with, especially if we have kids. They hear the words we say, but ultimately imitate what we do and if those don’t match up they won’t respect us or embrace the values we want so much to teach them. Each and everyday we need to look at ourselves and make sure our walk is in line with our talk. Not an easy task, but like most things that push us outside our comfort zone, worth the effort.

Looking out the window this morning I did not want to go out for a walk, but I made a commitment. When I stepped outside I wanted to turn around and go back in. It was raining, not drizzling, raining…and windy. I was determined to get over to the tree and take a photo so on I went. Before long, I noticed that because of the raindrops pelting me in the face I was walking faster than normal. Not necessarily a bad thing. I pushed forward, took the picture and decided to head back. A forty minute walk is much better than nothing.

Since certain family members had been bugging me about taking pictures that include me, I attempted to get a decent one of myself. This is the best I could come up with. Plus, it gives you an idea of how much it was raining.

I actually really like this one, too. Technically, it is a picture of me…just reflected in the puddle.

On my way back, I saw this person and thought, “They came prepared…and probably aren’t from around here.” I don’t know too many Oregonians that actually use umbrellas, unless they’re originally from someplace else.

So you may be wondering what this all has to do with the title of this post. The fact that the unpleasant rain made me push harder got me thinking. We need adversity in life. If we were all perfect, we wouldn’t, but we’re not. It’s the hard times or the discouraging people that give us the opportunity to grow, but the choice is up to us. We can let ourselves get beat down or we can push harder and rise to the occasion.

If we allow others to define us and believe them when they say we can’t transform into something better, we become weaker and weaker. Soon we start talking to ourselves the same way those who want to see us fail do. But enough is enough! We can choose to be our own biggest cheerleader and find pleasure in overcoming obstacles. It’s not easy, especially if we’ve been our own worst enemy. It takes passion and drive so get mad about it! Decide that the negative thoughts that lead to negative actions stop now. We deserve better.

It’s time to refocus all that energy that’s been wasted on worrying about what others think or disasters that may never happen. It’s time to make better use of the 24 hours we’ve been given each day. No more wasting hour after hour in mindless activity that only serves as an escape from our real lives. Let’s make our lives exciting and fulfilling by changing the way we look at ourselves and the world around us.

Instead of watching TV or playing video games, why not workout? Instead of spending time online planting virtual crops or helping your friends build a new stove that only requires one click of the mouse instead of three, why not reach out to someone new and see if there’s some way you can help them navigate through life? We’ve all been through something that someone else is experiencing and could use some guidance.  And with the economy the way it is, there’s always a need for volunteers in the communities where we live.

It’s time to stop giving in and giving up. Let’s be thankful for the challenges we face because they give us a chance to grow and become stronger. Identify your biggest weakness and decide you’re going to turn it into a strength. It will mean getting out of your comfort zone and maybe even encountering opposition, but it will be worth it. Well, what are you waiting for?

The original purpose of starting this walking group was to get my neighbors interested in health and fitness. So far, no one from the apartment complex has shown up. I’ve had a couple of friends join me on occasion which is great, but for the most part I’m walking solo. I suppose I could’ve just given up. It’s not like I need to walk for exercise. I’ve got plenty of fun and effective fitness programs at home like Turbo Jam, TurboFire, P90X, Brazil Butt Lift, and the one I’m currently doing…ChaLEAN Extreme. But, I keep going because I know eventually someone will join me and I have tons of energy and I love being outside taking photos of the things I find interesting.

Growing up an only child (yes, I did say I have a brother, two actually and a sister…long story for another day), I learned to enjoy time alone, but like they say…no man is an island. This morning I ended up walking next to a college student on her way to class. Even though we didn’t speak, having a companion made the chilly morning feel warmer somehow. Her presence was comforting. I knew we’d eventually part ways since I’d be slowing down to take pictures so I took this one of her as she went on her way. Yep, there’s the tree.

I went on my merry way, heading left at the tree with the confused moss instead of right toward Alton Baker Park like I normally do. I was thinking about how we need friends and family to support us as we go through life. I remembered the people who have come and gone, the ones who were there for me in tough times and the ones who were there, but still made me feel alone.

A little off the subject…couldn’t decide which angle I liked better so I posted them both.

As I thought about the times I felt alone and about all the people around us who have felt the same way, like the woman I met on my last walk, I couldn’t help but remember that we are never really alone. No doubt, there are those who disagree with me. You may even be thinking, “Oh, here we go. She’s going to get all preachy on us.” But, relax. I don’t have some secret agenda where I’m slowly going to start trying to convert the masses through my blog. I’m just sharing my thoughts and experiences and my belief that God exists and cares about us is part of my experience. If God himself hasn’t felt the need to force you to believe He exists or to trust Him, then it’s certainly not my place to, either.

For me, the question of whether God exists has never actually been a question. Just as I believe the sun is there even when it’s obscured by clouds, I believe God is there even when His presence is not obvious.

I know there are plenty of people who believe God exists, but aren’t too happy with the way He’s running things. All I can say to that is that we see our lives from a different perspective and a limited view. I’m reminded of a quote that was taped on the inside of the bathroom stall door in the girls’ dorm where I went to college. “God never leads His children otherwise than they would choose to be led, if they could see the end from the beginning, and discern the glory of the purpose which they are fulfilling as co-workers with Him.” Desire of Ages

You may not agree with me and that’s fine. I’m not here to argue the point. I just know that all aspects of my life would be much worse if it wasn’t for what God has done in my life. Those who knew me back in high school can attest to the fact that I’m not the same person I used to be…and that’s a good thing. The bottom line, and I think we can all agree, is that all of our lives will be better when we can stop thinking about ourselves long enough to see the people around us who need love, compassion and companionship and do something about it.

Again, I couldn’t decide which shot I liked better so I’m posting both. I was overjoyed that the birds weren’t bothered by my presence and allowed me to take more than one.

It looked like I wasn’t going to be taking any photos of the bottom of this bridge for a while.

After I chatted with one of the workers about the new bridge for a few minutes and continued on my way, I saw a familiar sight. A man was walking toward me with all his possessions strapped to his back, his head hung low. As I approached him I tried to catch his eye, but he just stared at the ground where his next footstep would fall. I said good morning, but he didn’t respond. Not far behind him was another man, loaded down with various packs and bags, but his head was held high. I looked him in the eye and said good morning. After a split second of shock, he smiled back and said the same. Moments later I heard him ask the worker if they would be able to go under the bridge. His reason for being under there was much better than mine, but the answer was still no.

We all need love and companionship so we need to stop and ask ourselves if the bickering and drama we sometimes allow in our lives is worth it. We need to stop taking the people around us for granted.

Going back off subject for a brief moment…perhaps this is the new OPB station since they’ve announced cutting funding to public broadcasting. Not to get all political or anything.

Ok, back on track. I’ve considered renaming this category “Ramblings with Some Focus…and Photos”. Seems fitting. As I finished up my walk and passed by Autzen Stadium I couldn’t help but notice that the wind was picking up and the trash cans that stood alone were being blown over.

The ones that were in pairs seemed to be faring better.

9 “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: 10 If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. 11 Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? 12 A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.” Eccl. 4:9-12

Yeah, I just quoted the Bible, but I couldn’t have said it better myself. We need relationships, but sometimes those relationships are hard. I’ve found that when we allow God to be that third strand, those relationships transform into a source of joy, comfort and strength.

Tomorrow there may be snow so I might have to miss a day of walking. If it’s possible, I’ll go. Either way, there will be pictures. If I go, I’ll most likely be alone…or not. Just depends on how you look at it. 😉

Usually when I head out for a walk I don’t plan where I’m going or what I’m going to photograph…well, except for the tree.

But, today was different. I was on a mission. Since I had a free hand, I decided I would go back on the same path I was on the day before and pick up the bag of poop if it was still there. As I looked for it along the edge I found this instead.

Sorry, but I had to share. I was just so amused that there I was looking for poop and although it wasn’t exactly what I was looking for, I found it. Of all the times I’ve walked those trails I’ve never noticed any before. That got me thinking about a life principle brought to my attention recently through the wonderful people on my team of coaches. In life, you find what you’re looking for so you’d better look for things you want to find. Like squirrels.

Ok, maybe most of us aren’t looking for squirrels, but we all are looking for something even if we don’t realize it. Our attitudes often determine what we find in life. Positive people find positive experiences and success while negative people just can’t ever seem to catch a break. Even if we’re not exactly sure what we’re looking for, having a positive attitude and an open mind allows us to see bright spots and opportunities along the way. The more time and energy we spend focussing on what we want, or don’t want, the more likely it is that it will happen. Goals gives us direction and something to move toward. We take action so we can move closer to what we want. Eventually, we find what we’re looking for even if it doesn’t look exactly the same when we reach it. The opposite is also true. When we spend our time focussing on all the negative things that can happen we become the kind of person that negative things happen to.

For example, if a person in a relationship is constantly worried that other person will be unfaithful or leave them they begin to act distrustful and jealous, turning themselves into the kind of person their partner doesn’t want to be around. They drive the other person away, creating the very situation they’re so worried will happen. If they had believed the best and focussed on the positives in the relationship they would’ve been that much more irresistible to their partner, creating a strong, happy relationship.

Besides looking for that green bag, I had another mission. WordPress has a weekly photo challenge and the title this week is Refuge. I was looking for something that would fit, though I wasn’t exactly sure what it would be. Since I hadn’t gotten the shot by the time I reached the main part of the park I left Pre’s Trail and headed out toward the mall along the river.

Once I passed the mall I crossed over the river and headed back.

The benches on the south side of the river were donated in memory of loved ones and each carry a plaque. This one was my favorite. Obviously a woman who was looking for good things in life.

Passing by the rose garden, I thought that someone looking for thorns would certainly find them, but even in winter while the bushes lie dormant there was something amazing there.

A little farther down the path, another memorial.

Directly across the path from the war memorial, something considerably more lighthearted.

Shortly after passing the cheerful animals I came upon a figure barely moving forward along the path with their whole life on their back and their head hung so low I couldn’t tell if it was a man or woman. I don’t remember ever seeing a person so downtrodden and heavily burdened. I overtook them quickly as they seemed to be struggling to put one foot in front of the other.

As I listened to the shuffling footsteps fading away behind me it occurred to me that I should do something. As I pondered the idea I slowed down, but kept going. What could I do? I had no money or food with me. Then I knew. I could lift their burden, even if for only a few minutes. I retraced my steps until I was standing right in front of what I had finally figured out was a woman. “Excuse me.” She didn’t look up, but tilted her head to the side so she could see me. “I don’t have anything on me to help you out, but I can carry that for a while if you’d like.” The look on her face made me wonder how long it had been since anyone had actually spoken to her. She shook her head no and kept shuffling along. Maybe she was afraid I would take her stuff or maybe she was holding onto one last bit of pride. Either way, she refused my offer to help, but it was fine. Maybe the fact that someone actually noticed her was enough to lift her burden for a while.

We parted ways and I found myself wishing I had asked her name or just walked with her for a bit. But she was gone so I went back to taking pictures.

I headed home, a bit weary from the extra long walk. Did I find what I was looking for? I did. You can see the photos here. No matter what you’re looking for you will find it. Whether it’s a person who needs help, or an opportunity to learn something new, or beauty among the thorns you’ll find it. And, if it’s poop you’re looking for, well, there’s plenty of that around, too…if that’s what you want.

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