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Dawn Watson's Just Sayin': Friends Like Mine (Life on the Fringe)

Dawn Watson/CNB News Contributor

661820e4223031588a720b1e78157886*Living rough the way I do is not a unique experience. Even in the Land of Opportunity, thousands of people are living on the fringe of society. It’s a humbling, sweltering, freezing, filthy, hungry experience. However, it can have its humorous moments.


   Take, for example, a kind-hearted friend that invited me into her home for lunch. I’ve grown accustomed to drinking from a garden hose and am now being served iced tea in a crystal glass. My first thought is, “How does this thing work? Where’s the nozzle?” and then my memory bank makes a withdrawal and I realize I simply put the rim of the glass to my mouth and sip. Only I’m really, really thirsty, so I gulp the contents down before M’ Lady even sits down at the table. She doesn’t flinch. She is my friend. She refills my glass without comment.


   Having no dishes I am also at a loss when it comes to plate-and-cutlery etiquette. While I’ve only been living rough for about four months so much has changed during that period that I’ve almost forgotten that, for the most part, using cutlery is not generally optional. Also, that one does not pick up a chicken leg, stuff it into one’s mouth, work on it until it’s just a bone, then toss it proudly onto the plate. Not done. Nope.


   Washing hands has also become an issue in my situation, but not the way you’d suppose; I’m more fastidious with the ritual, especially before eating, than ever before. Why? I know what my hands have been into. Live with a pack of dogs and no plumbing for a while. You’ll be scrubbing your hands raw, too.


   Another well-meaning friend gave me a book on Gestalt Therapy, a once-popular therapeutic method in which the patient is asked a question (How does that make you feel?) and is encourage to scream the response (I hate it! I hate it!) Imagine for a moment living in a van down by the river, screaming like that. How soon do you think it would take to see flashing lights outside my windows? Gestalt in house? Good. Gestalt in van down by river? I hate it. 


   I know I’m lucky that I have friends that still invite me to lunch and those that worry about my mental well-being. I’m one of the fortunate few that seems to have successfully bridged the gap between the brick-and-mortar dwellers and the homeless population. I don’t consider myself homeless, just Accoutrementally Disabled but I have a roof over my head, clothes on my back, and safe-houses I can use for showers and laundry chores.


   There are a lot of folks that don’t have the basic necessities and are too humble to ask for help, so they suffer silently—hungry, overwhelmed, overheated—because their needs are not known.  Reach out. Lend a hand, give a sandwich, a cool drink, a clean shirt when you can. Make a difference.


Just Sayin’,


Dawn Watson


*Living rough: Living without luxury or comfort. For example, without electric, running water, or enough food to last a day. Depending on a small income and needing to use it all at once. Taking odd jobs for food or to earn enough money to buy common items such as toilet paper and cleaning supplies. Enduring discomfort because of financial need.


published | July 15, 2019