The abandoned shopping cart


What happened to the “owner” of the abandoned shopping cart? As I pass the cart for the second day in a row, and notice that it has not moved, I wonder about its “owner.”

I have, on occasion, watched homeless folks arrange their belongings in a hijacked shopping cart. It is not uniformly true, but many times they treat each article with great care. They put each item in a strategic place so it can be used as per their designs. Perhaps they have found the majority, or possibly all, of their worldly goods in the various discard piles throughout the city, but it does not seem to impact the reverence with which they hold the items. This organization ritual I have observed can sometimes appear to be a contemplative act. Is it one of gratitude? Is it an act of sorrow to come face to face with the notion that this is “my life.” I have wondered about the feelings and thoughts that accompany the organization of these precious few belongings of someone that ostensibly leads a pretty compact life.

In any case, the care I have seen some of these people exercise as they organize their shopping carts is what gives me pause about the abandoned shopping cart. Who is inquiring about the owner’s whereabouts? Who is wondering where he or she has been for the last few days? Has anyone asked if they are ok? I feel deeply grateful to know that there are people who care for me and would notice if I disappeared for a few days.

I have to hold back feelings of shame as I think about the many who live on the streets. I think perhaps we console ourselves with the thought, “maybe they brought all this on themselves.” Perhaps, a few people have chosen this life on purpose. Even if a person did bring hard times on themselves, or have literally chosen a life on the streets, for me, it is an unproductive conclusion to absolve ourselves of any concern on the matter of homelessness. I struggle with the thought of what it says about me that I blithely continue my daily routine while many suffer so much. I recall one morning as I walked to work it was in the low 20s. I walked by a man who was sleeping on the ground in front of a store. “How terrible,” I thought. I was saddened to think of how awful that must be for him. I was pretty begrudging of my walk to work in such conditions, but to sleep through the night in that weather just seems wrong, and frankly inhumane.

I have no prescriptions nor solutions for how we might solve this blight on our humanity of persistent homelessness. My words are my meditation on this challenge. Mine is to contemplate why the diversity of human experience, to wonder why I am so fortunate and others so much less so. I feel a need to sit with my discomfort on the subject, but not to rush to an armchair policy hack’s easy solution.

To conclude, to the owner of the abandoned shopping cart, wherever you are, I hope your'e ok and that are doing well through this cold winter. I hope the abandoned cart is a sign that you’ve moved up in whatever way pleases you. Whether it be a better cart or a home. I hope you are well, and for what it is worth, I care, and I have been thinking about you.


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