I was walking to my writer’s group this afternoon in busy Melbourne city when an aboriginal woman, indigenous to this land, came alongside me and asked me for some small change. I was flustered, didn’t know what to say, muttered that I didn’t have any, she pleaded with me, said she needed something to eat, said “please Mama”. I walked on feeling confused and guilty. I decided that I wanted to go back, find her and give her some money. I changed ten dollars into 2 five dollar notes and went to look for her. She had disappeared! I felt disappointed.
Did I need to appease my guilt about the homeless? Did I need to assuage my guilt about this indigenous woman in her land having to beg?
I wanted to do something to help, but I could not bring myself to respond straight away, then I missed the opportunity. I have no idea what she would have spent the money on food, alcohol, drugs?
My mind fills with all the things people here in Melbourne say about their homeless. Give money to the mission, buy the ‘Big Issue’ magazine whose proceeds go the homeless, buy them a coffee, buy food and give that instead of money. No matter, I continue to be confronted within myself about the plight of the homeless, yet have not worked out what I want my response to be when someone like this woman approaches me. An indigenous woman at that, who called me Mama. I thought about how humiliating it must be for her, an indigenous woman, to beg from me a white woman. I felt sad.
Some would say that I overthink and feel too much.