Article / HelpInLA

HelpInLA — Day 6

As my first week is starting to wind down, my situation has affected me in many ways — some pretty predictable and some actually kind of surprising.

I thought I would jot down a few of the things I’ve learned / noticed:

– We, as a society, do NOT pay attention to what is happening around us

I’ve spent what I feel comfortable classifying as a higher-than-average amount of time in the backseat of my car this week. I often just park somewhere and climb in the backseat to get some reading or writing done. No matter where I park, though, one thing remains true:


Even people who appear to be on the sidewalk simply to enjoy a nice stroll and get some fresh air have their eyes so glued to the palm of their hand (or rather, the smartphone therein) that they don’t notice me getting in some pretty solid people-watching from the back of my car.

I’ve taken to making faces like these out my window at passersby, just to see if they will notice:

Photo on 3-7-13 at 5.32 PM #2                  Photo on 3-7-13 at 5.32 PM #4                Photo on 3-7-13 at 5.33 PM

So far, no one has.

This can either be seen as a sad commentary on how little we in modern society value our immediate surroundings, or as a sad commentary on how little notice we take of those with less than us. Either way, DONATE TO MY FRIEND’S PLACE! (Don’t forget to put HelpInLA in the memo line)

– I am highly addicted — to outlets

I’ve never realized until this week how much of my life revolves around the charging of my various electronic devices. It wasn’t until I nearly overslept for work on my fourth day of this challenge that I realized that my usual alarm clock — my cell phone — was under significant risk of dying overnight before it could chirp me awake the next morning.

I had to buy a travel alarm for $10. But, since I’m holding myself to a strict $20/day spending budget (what kind of a cop-out would it be if I could just buy my way out of discomfort?), it meant that I had to do a 99-cent can of beans for dinner that I warmed up at a 7/11.

The point being: I’d never thought about how much of my brain function I’d outsourced to electronics until those brain functions ran out of batteries.

Plus side: My phone being dead half the time means I actually look up at the trees and sky occasionally.

Down side: There’s a reason I rely on GoogleMaps and my phone. (My brain doesn’t understand how directions work)

– The little things make a BIG difference

Last night was the first night we had some rain here in LA (or at least in the portions in which I’ve been parking) — and it made me very grateful to have any kind of roof over my head at all.

I’ve generally been waking up around 3:00 or 4:00 every morning (I can usually climb out, stretch my cramp-y legs, then get back to sleep), and this brief period of waking, when the whole rest of the world seems to be in slumber, has proven an excellent time to think.

Last night, when I stepped out to stretch in the rain, I realized that the tiny inconveniences from my regular life that usually have trivial consequences — like having to grab an umbrella on the way out the door — become HUGE difficulties for anyone without a place to call home. How do you find shelter from the rain if you don’t have a house (or a car) to climb into? Hell, where would you even keep an umbrella if you were homeless?

Far and away, though, the biggest difficulty I have personally faced so far may or may not surprise you: BATHROOMS!

Public bathrooms are proving to be much more rare than I had anticipated. Even many gas stations here in LA don’t have public restrooms — and if they do, you have to have the money to be able to purchase something. Otherwise, you’re out of luck!

This is just an inconvenience for me, but imagine yourself as a teenager sleeping alone in a park because you have no where to go. What do you do in the middle of the night when you wake up and nature calls? I guess you do have a few options, but none of them are pretty.

This is probably the biggest lesson I’ve learned so far: The smallest things — the everyday, easy things — the things you don’t even think about — are often the ones we should be most grateful for because they are really the most difficult to live without.

Set aside a minute today to think about how easy it is to brush your teeth or how nice it is to have a more comfortable pair of shoes to put on when you get home. Because a lot of people don’t have that.

You can help those people by clicking here and donating now(Don’t forget to put HelpInLA in the memo line)

Check out my other updates by clicking here.

Learn more about My Friend’s Place here.

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