I was in downtown Saskatoon on an overcast fall day. Ombre leaves swirled around my feet as I walked along the grey cracked sidewalk towards the mall. The smell of exhaust and the garbage filled streets were ever present in the chilly air. My dad walked beside me, his broad tall figure protecting me from most of the winds cold bite. Our spirits were high as we walked due to the passing of my ninth birthday just days before. We were on our annual birthday shopping trip. My excitement rose the closer we got to the mall. I was envisioning the new ripped jeans, runners and other apparel that would soon be mine to show off to my friends when I got back to school.
We turned a corner near a tall graffitied grey brick building and received some relief from the wind. I noticed a pile of tattered black blankets clustered against the base of the building some distance away. I thought how horrible it was that someone would just leave their old blankets on the street rather than disposing of them properly. As we walked closer though the blankets began to take an oblong shape as if somethings were wrapped up inside. All of a sudden, a tanned weathered hand reached through an opening and exposed an elderly wrinkled face. My dad instinctively grabbed my elbow and pulled me towards him, the man surprising the both of us.
Upon realizing we were in no danger my dad loosened his tight grip on my elbow. The man on the street reached for a red solo cup beside him that clanked with the sound of loose change and held it towards us. With glossed over brown eyes he desperately looked towards us and asked “anything to spare?” in a weak cracked voice. My dad stopped and dug into his jean pocket for his wallet. He pulled out a ten-dollar bill and placed it the man’s cup with a smile and a friendly nod. The man grinned, and reviled a near toothless gummy smile behind the greying whiskers on his top lip. He said “thank you” in a slightly stronger more cheerful voice and we carried on towards the mall.
I was confused about the scene I had just witnessed. I asked my dad why that man was laying on the street and why he had just given him money. He responded saying that the man was homeless. “what does that mean? He doesn’t have a home?” I asked, shocked that this could even be a possibility. My dad stopped and said “yes. Sometimes people aren’t as fortunate as us and find themselves in hard situations, like not having a home. Its unfair and sad but its unfortunately reality.”. This perplexed me, my mind could not contemplate how one could not have a home. Questions raced through my mind about how this could be possible. How would you shower? What happened if you got really cold?
The novelty and excitement of the shopping trip faded after this. The clothes I tried on were nice but I could not stop thinking about the homeless man. I had a tinge of guilt every time my dad swiped his credit card for a new purchase. I knew I really didn’t need these clothes; my closet was jammed packed as it was.
We left the mall earlier than usual. We walked back to our vehicle the same way we had come. The wind had picked up and the temperature had dropped a couple degrees. I walked briskly, trying to keep up to my dad’s long strides. We turned the corner back onto the street where the homeless man was still sitting. I tugged on my dad’s coat sleeve motioning him to stop. He looked down at me and I asked if he thought it would be ok if I gave the homeless man ten dollars of my own. He smiled and said of course it would be. He grabbed my hand and walked towards the man. I shyly smiled at the man who grinned back, I held up the ten-dollar bill of my own and bent down to drop it in his red solo cup. His face glowed and his eyes crinkled almost closed he smiled so big. I smiled back and we continued on our way.