More often than not, on the second Saturday of the month, you will find me on Franklin Ave. with a crock-pot of hot dogs and a giant smile on my face. Which, if you have ever been on Franklin Ave in Minneapolis, is kind of a crazy thing. But I love it.
Thanks to Mark and Sandi Tuveson (who are quite amazing people), a group of us have been handing out food to the ‘downtrodden’ going on ten years or so. Yesterday was an exceptionally good Saturday for us. We had more than enough help, no one threw a chair, or started a fight, or spit food in people’s faces, or took a piss by the picnic tables (yes, all those things have happened before and will likely happen again. But those occurrences are mostly rare. Though I probably just jinxed it.) But that wasn’t really what made yesterday good. It was the people.
Perhaps it was the hint of spring in the air, or the above freezing weather, or Mama Sandi’s wonderful homemade chicken noodle soup… but people seemed to be lighter, not as weighed down by their lives. Maybe even hopeful.
There is a song that I listen to fairly frequently by A Tribe Called Red called How I Feel (Listen to It Here on the Youtubes) that expresses all the jumbled emotions I feel better than I ever could. Part of the lyrics go something like this: “You don’t have to tell me how you feel, cause I can see it in your eyes. They don’t have to prove to me that the pain is real, cause I can hear it in their cries.”
The pain you see in people’s eyes on the second Saturday of every month, more often than not it’s generational. It can be clouded with a haze of booze, drugs, mental stability, a front of badassness. But’s it’s still there. So deep that many times it’s the only constant in their lives.
From my experience, society likes to label these folks. Good, bad, on welfare, alcoholics, drug addicts, whores, bad parents, disabled, the list goes on and on and on. I think such labels and attitudes make it’s easier to overlook the person. Easier not to look into their pain filled eyes. Easier not to hear their cries.
I am a little terrified (that’s a lie. I am SUPER terrified) of starting this next writing project that I have in mind. Because it has to do with that pain. I am fully aware of how hard it will be to write. My heart will shatter over and over. Because I won’t be able to help but feel the pain of my characters.
But I hope through that pain, I will be able to give people, like those I see on Franklin Ave., a voice and a hope and a worth that have never been able to see in themselves. Who knows if I can pull it off. But I am sure going to try my damnedest.
So if you happen to run into me at a coffee shop (say Powwow Grounds, for example) and I am weeping over my laptop, you’ll know why. While you are there, take a look around the room, and see if you can see the pain in people’s eyes.