I got to spend the weekend with my Ice Hockey-loving, outdoorsy-wilderness seeking, sweet-as-maple-syrup Canadian boyfriend.
It was a pretty great one.
We watched movies (wet, chilly weather prevailed) we went out for meals, cooked at home and read our books, went drinking with buddies and got to hang with his family and ADORABLE half golden retriever, half poodle dogs.
We were together all weekend, and as I walked to work from his place, in my big puffy jacket zipped up to my nose, well-rested and just filled with joy, I reflected that I love Toronto so much and that it is a terrific city.

And then I saw the homeless guy.

I don’t live in a bubble. I know that there is poverty and a division between rich and poor – I’ve seen it first hand in my travels through Asia (Cambodia was the hardest), but it is still pretty shocking every time I’m reminded that there are some people just desperate to survive, and that life isn’t sunshinelollipopsandrainbows for everyone.

Canada is a first world country, and although our toilets flush backwards and our prime minister is a Ranga, Australia is considered a first world country too. The poverty here and there is not the African starvation-type poverty variety you see in World Vision commercials. It’s subtler.

Dirty, cold, hungry.

The homeless guy I passed, I’ve seen him before a number of times. He sleeps on top of a vent (that shoots out hot air from the subway underground) opposite the beautiful historic Old Town Hall building. Right on the corner where pedestrian traffic is thick. He has a little set-up actually. A sleeping bag with some kind of foam mattress inside. He has a couple of books – some other stuff clothes and things. At one point he had a kitten that slept with him inside the sleeping bag. I haven’t seen it in a little while.

Today as I walked past, he was curled up in his sleeping bag, a bunch of Starbucks coffee cups nearby, and as I waited to cross over the road, a woman walked past, and put a sandwich, sealed in a ziplock bag on top of his book.

It was a small gesture, but it touched me. I have no idea if that woman gives him a sandwich every day – she might have just been walking past and thought “I can buy my lunch today.” It made me think about the money stuffed carelessly in my wallet, and the Tupperware of leftovers thrown in my overnight bag.

It made me reflect on my brand new furniture tucked away in the warm room in my rented apartment – a place I didn’t visit once over the weekend. It made me think about the food I have in the cupboards, and the things in the fridge which I’ve let go bad because of the expiry date.

Toronto has harsh weather conditions in both Summer and Winter. Downtown it can be sweltering hot, and freezing cold. I learned in a throw-away conversation that every year, homeless people die from exposure to the cold.

That is a truly shocking thing in a city like this.

With the holiday season approaching rapidly, it’s time to remember that life isn’t easy for everyone.
That one experience this morning, forced me to really think about how I can make a difference  and what’s important to me.

To read more about Canada’s homeless population click here for an Article from the National Post from 4 years ago and a more recent news source (2009, Salvation Army) about who Canada’s homeless are.