Category Archives: Life Updates

I had lunch with a homeless man yesterday.

Last week I got a free burrito at Chipotle because of their promotion, and while I was there I purchased a gift card specifically to give to a homeless person. I saw a man almost immediately after walking out and gave it to him.

“Ben,” I greeted him yesterday when I saw him again, feeling a little proud that I’d remembered his name.

“Oh hey,” he responded. We chatted for a moment and he said that he remembered my face, but not where we met. I reminded him, and he said, “Oh yeah! I used it to get a burrito bowl. That’s easier than a burrito, because the tortilla is hard with my dentures.” He pulled out his retainer to show me. “You know, I’m kind of hungry now . . .”

I had some time, so I took him to Noodles and Company for lunch. I asked what had put him on the street asking for money. He told me that he’d had an infection in his hand several years ago, and it left him with decreased motor control plus pain with repetitive tasks. He said he used to work for a lot of restaurant-type places and on construction jobs, and that he recently applied for a job to bus tables and is waiting to hear back from them. I asked him where he sleeps, and he says he knows people who will let him sleep on their couch for $15 or $20 a night, plus he can shower and keep his other clothes there. He said sometimes they won’t want him to stay because they have guests or something else, and on those nights he’ll find a motel for around $50 if it’s really cold. He mentioned that he has a sister living a few towns away, but otherwise no real family or friends, only acquaintances.

He told me that when he’s asking for money on the street, some people are very nice and some are very mean. Recently a man gave him $200 and suggested that he use it to take a bus or train somewhere warmer, but instead he got a motel room for a week. I asked him how much he spends on food on a typical day if people don’t give him food, and he said maybe an average of $10, and that he usually eats at cheap places like McDonald’s. Finally, I asked if he’s ever able to save money up, or if he just lives day to day. He said day to day.

Budget-happy Rose did some quick math. If he pays $15 a night to sleep, that’s $450 in a 30 day month. $10 a day for food if no one gives him food, so maybe $5 a day on average makes $150 for a 30 day month. That’s $600 per month, plus anytime he gets a motel room. I didn’t ask about any other costs, like transportation or miscellaneous expenses.

I have so many thoughts about what I could do if it was me. There are some apartments listed as $450 per month or less, and $150 is more than enough for a monthly food budget if you a) can cook some things and b) have some cooking items like pans and spoons and such. It seems like it would be easier to get a job after having an apartment, because not being sure if you have a place to sleep/go home to seems debilitatingly stressful. Of course I’d have to save up enough for a security deposit and first month’s rent, which would be especially difficult on cold nights when that $50 motel room is looking like the best thing in the world.

Anyway, I could write up a whole plan for what I would do if it was me. But it’s not me. Our histories, skillsets, world knowledge, motivations, resources, and stressors, are so different. The perfect plan for me isn’t the perfect plan for him. What I would need in that situation is probably not what he needs.

Did I help him by buying lunch with him and talking to him? Nope, or at least not much. More than the food itself, it could have been nice for him to talk to someone, though I don’t know that for sure. I do believe that small acts of kindness go a long way, but just giving people things won’t make them fulfilled. It’s not my job to ‘save’ anyone, and it never will be. Maybe someday I’ll be in a position to create more positive opportunities for people, which in a nutshell is what I am starting to believe that every person needs.

Did he help me? Definitely. Whether his story was 100% truthful or not, I learned a lot by talking to him. I prayed before our meal, and noticed that he said “God bless” to me several times afterwards, where he hadn’t before. He also only ate half of his meal, taking the rest in a box. He seemed worried that I was going to think that he was going to waste it, and without prompting assured me several times that he would eat it later.

What else? If I talked to him again I might ask more questions about his background, but also what it is that he wants. What would make his life better? Happier? More fulfilling? I know what might make my own life different in these ways, but not anyone else. If I was going to make a plan for reducing poverty, I think I would start by asking people questions instead of just assuming that I know what they need.

 

Canada Part II

. . . just in  time to preface Trinidad and Tobago Part V.

First, upon arrival, I learned that Toronto has two international terminals and hence two customs. Since I was waiting outside of the wrong one, Kevan spent almost an hour looking for me. Oops.

We went first to Kevan’s sister’s apartment where we were commissioned to help make paper cranes to be used as decorations at the reception. I had to be retaught.

IMG_2251

Clearly I am doing an excellent job.

IMG_2262

Kevan and I were almost late to the wedding because of traffic. He was doing a reading, so when we got there he got a thirty second brief that he maybe didn’t need anyway and we sat down right when the procession started. The wedding was lovely. Afterwards, the bride and groom insisted on getting pictures with absolutely everyone there. That was cute.

The reception was within walking distance, so Kevan and I meandered there by ourselves, stopping for a hot chocolate along the way. The reception lasted a long time, slash I am a lame party-goer and always get sleepy by 10pm. As it got later Kevan and I started wandering around the reception venue more, and we found a rec room where a TV was playing some Disney channel movie about the children of villains and heroes, so we watched that for a while.

IMG_2272

Overall it was really fun. As you can see, Kevan is a much better dancer than I am.

 

Canada and Two Green Beans

I think it would be prudent to  write about Canada Part I last weekend before leaving for Canada Part II this weekend.

I went to Canada with Cecille, who was going because she wanted to go on a Mormon excursion. The actual Mormon part of the trip was meant to be quite minimal (although of course Cecille added extra Mormon activities at the last minute), and I hadn’t been to a place just to go to a new place in a while. Plus, French!

Niagara Falls
Very windy at Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls was awesome. We saw both the Canada side, which was like a little Las Vegas, and the New York side. The boat tour was really fun (Hornblowers on the Canada side!), and we were lucky that it wasn’t too cold even though it’s November. Though the second day was quite windy on the New York side, it was lovely to walk around.

Mormon woods and hills

I enjoyed the second surprise Mormon excursion because we got to walk through the pretty woods and climb a big hill.

In Montreal we went to St. Joseph’s Oratory, the basilica, and the Mormon temple.

11220920_10207583168640355_6062197252140457700_n
I appreciate the experience of touring the Mormon temple, but I don’t think I’ll have any desire to do so again. It was like a very clean hotel with some strange uses.
12188893_10207583169280371_1647394348070936244_n
Mass at the basilica was great. I remembered only a few of the Mass parts in French, but got almost the whole Our Father! I tried to pay attention in the homily but could only catch random words and phrases, like “sinners,” “he responded,” “from the first reading,” “Holy Spirit!,” “compassion,” and “Jesus.”
12193306_10207583153479976_4729044751158353752_n
The oratory was also gorgeous. What a beautiful space.
11168920_10207583170360398_4005135892694554712_n
Since it was the first trip to Canada for both of us, we naturally had to eat at Tim Hortons. It was good 🙂
Two Green Beans
In other news, my green bean plant, grown from a first generation green bean plant, gave me two beans before it died of cold weather. I honored its sacrifice by eating them.

The Real Grad School Goal

When I started grad school my goal was to get straight As through the whole thing. Having solidly missed that goal after the first semester, my plan was vaguely to just ‘do the best I could.’ That’s still my aim, but I’ll add that the updated goal is to succeed in grad school while also being happy.

Actually, it would just be this:
Happiness > Stress

It’s a work in progress. I sometimes consider what I want/need, and some of it’s just not possible. For instance, it would be great if my immediate family and closest friends were geographically closer.  But they’re not, and I can’t change that.

However, there are other things! Giving myself breaks (from schoolwork) helps, but maybe not always as much as I think it does. I’m learning that I need to do other things besides school, not just take breaks from school. Softball was one of those things, and also a way to be social. Now that the season’s over, I’ll (hopefully) still spend time with the team occasionally, but we won’t have regular games. I’m trying to add in a few other activities, so that I have many sources of happiness outside of school. Here’s my current list.

  1. Reading books for fun. I just finished one that I’ll add to my booklist later, and I have two more lined up to start.
  2. Running. I’ve been three times in the past two weeks, which still isn’t a lot but is more than usual. My goal is to get up to 2-3x per week consistently.
  3. Scola choir. This is great because I get to be with people, sing, and have a daily Mass that I’m committed to going to once a week.
  4. French. When Kevan started learning French on DuoLingo I went back to it too, but now it’s been a long time since I’ve been on it. I did a few lessons today and a few lessons yesterday, and just that little bit of progress on another interest has felt really good.
  5. Generally committing to more social activities. This one will take the most work on my part, because as much as I need more friendship/social interaction, my inclination at the end of the day tends to be to hide in my room.

Perhaps you’ve already seen the illustration on the left, and of course I was pleased to find the modified version on the right which describes graduate school. As funny as this is, it’s not correct. If I dropped everything besides my thesis, I wouldn’t end up with a more timely submission, I would end up unhappy and burnt out. Whenever I sacrifice sleep or interests or friendships, I don’t have “more time” because my performance is so much lower that it takes me longer to make any progress on academic work.

Ultimately, I do better in grad school when I pursue other interests and activities because I come back to work refreshed and in a healthy state of mind. Plus, I’ll come out of grad school with strong friendships and maybe even other skills in addition to that degree. So that’s my real grad school goal.

 

Welcome!

Hello there!
This blog is for sharing the little events of my life with my friends and family who are far away. (AKA almost everybody.)
Let’s jump right in!

  1. My cable bike lock was cut last week, but my bike wasn’t stolen. Weird. I also got lucky because Michelle’s bike actually was stolen. Anyway, it was lucky that my old U-lock and key were at my mom’s house, where I happened to go this past weekend, so no time or money lost there.
  2. Rachel and I went to see Nate Ruess in concert on Sunday evening. We got great, uncrowded seats up in the balcony and had a fabulous view of the stage. He had a very energetic stage presence and sounded good live. Though we didn’t get the old Format songs that we wanted, he made up for it with a couple of awesome covers – “Rocket Man” by Elton John and “Call me Al” by Paul Simon.
  3. I’m working on a design competition with some of my friends, so that’s a little extra added business. The submission date is October 23rd, so we have ten days to crank it out.
  4. I am on the Physics Department softball team, and we won our first game (ever) last week! We celebrated afterwards at mug night at the Blind Pig (discounted beers/cider if you bring your Blind Pig mug) with pie and ice cream.Running to first!