Leaving Vancouver for Vancouver Island now, my thoughts are still on the corner of Granville and Robson.

Seems this was our Piikoi/Beretania intersection, our inescapable transition to go home. Crossing the street four or five times yesterday, the last left an indelible mark. As fractions are slowly written on a chalkboard: ¼ ½ ¾ then 1, time pronounced its increments as shock unfolded. In segments of a single second I was mortified and in disbelief. Suddenly a crime witness, I had a compulsion to fix the wrongness that enveloped two adults with their dogs huddled together, sleeping on the sidewalk.

Lying on cardboard, under an eve, a man’s neck drooped forward with his companion woman’s head on his lap. Their two huskies provided both heat and comfort. Backpacks, a small cart, a water/food dish for the dogs, and a donation bowl bordered the living space and it seemed that no one and nothing would disturb their deep rest. All were in such somnolence , impervious to the urban clamor, bus engines and constant foot traffic.

This Thursday, now 10pm, seemed no different than any other night, but a couple, a man and woman in their 30’s caught my eye.  The woman passed the intersection and nearly rounded the corner. Before completing the turn, she calculated her steps, her torso bend, the 180 degree turn back to her companion who would be 10 paces ahead of her. This I only surmised but her choreograph to take the money from the bowl without stirring the sleeping adults and their two large dogs, proved her ½ second misdeed.
Picking up the bowl then setting it down 7 feet away, she took the money and scurried away to join her companion. Blended back into the Hobson street crowd it would be difficult to extract her without some fuss.  Flurries of thoughts came to me: was she in need too, was she stealing for her companion, did she grow up taking from others, and finally, how do the victims feed their large dogs and themselves now?  Now ten yards in front of me her charade was over but my indignation had just started. A thief will go unchecked, unpunished having stolen from a sleeping couple and their family. Intensifying emotions, my compassion for the dogs was more palpable than I realized (I work part-time at a veterinarian clinic),  Coming to my senses, what good would come from confronting evil, from some corrective force applied to the perverter? An eye for an eye? How do thieves abandon thievery? That was not my question to answer but there was something to be done, some response to the wrong only I saw.

Taking a breath, I pondered how to restore the money bowl back to its original position. What if the dogs stirred and attacked me, what if the man or woman awoke and saw me with their bowl? How much time would I have to say my action was that of its return (and not its theft)?   Would I be heard, understood? Could a perfect stranger, a pedestrian in jeans, black long sleeve shirt and beanie be believed? Could I be trusted?- So, and it was not easy, I said loudly: “Sir, sir, excuse me sir, I am so sorry to disturb you. Your bowl and the money in it were stolen. Here it is and please take this (some money). Be careful and take care.”

Awake now and barely conscious, he and his companion acknowledged my intrusion and simply and gently said thank you. Our eyes met:  it was enough to say something positive, something hopeful.  Handing him the money instead of putting it in the bowl, I wanted him to know that I cared and also that a bowl disregarded is an invitation to some.  At peace with their response and that their family dogs did not see me a hostile, I too, like the thief rounded the corner for home (Hyatt Regency Vancouver). A few steps in stride now, I just stopped, something was wrong–what if what I gave was only half of what was there originally, what if the man and his companion knew approximately what was in their till? Would they be saddened, angry? Would that cause and argument amongst them? Surely they did not need more bad news, more gloom.
There was no more I could give so I yelled to Noah, my son of eighteen years and asked him to wait up (he was at least 20’yards ahead). Now I would have to explain the situation and ask him if I could borrow some money and repay him when we returned home. In his concern for me (my finances), he asked if I was clear on the matter. Perhaps there were previous indiscretions he considered were dad may have been gullible or taken advantage of. I appreciated his genuine concern but pressed him for a small loan.

Resigned to my cause, he obliged. Hurrying back before they settled again in slumber, I said: “Here’s a bit more and take care”. Eyes widened. They were grateful.

There really is no end of neediness on Granville, no lack of want among folks who lay on the cold ground with a chilling wind against their skin. But this was not about helping the needy, rather how to respond to evil, to perversion. Having come across this before, I still battle with “justice” but now see that it is the goodness of doing good that helps people turn around–both the victim and the thief. In this case even the latter, though through hurtful means, could buy food. Should someone steal from her and she experience the Granville response, she may turn.

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