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What Would You Have in Your Shopping Cart?

Simplification to the Extreme

By Gail WyliePublished about a year ago 4 min read

I drive through downtown Edmonton to and from work. Every day it seems I see one or more people pushing or pulling a shopping cart stacked high with their possessions. And every time I see the carts, I can't help thinking about how they contrast to the bag of possessions that were tied on the end of a stick during the depression. These carts represent the overindulgence we have in our world to me as much as a lot of other things out there. However, I have recently began to think of them differently.

I saw my first homeless people in London, England in 1991. I was living in a small village at the time, and as far as I knew, there weren't any homeless people there. At least none that I had recognized as such. The thought of people sleeping on the streets was completely new to me.

It was the last day of my trip and I woke up in the middle of the night and couldn't get back to sleep. Finally I gave up the tossting and turning and decided to go for a walk. I was staying in a fancy hotel right next to Victoria Station and as I walked through the lobby in the early hours of the morning I was comforted by the fact that there were people on duty at the desk and that a man stood guard at the door. I wasn't all alone.

In the beginning I purposely stayed close to the hotel, walking a block at a time so that I could get back to the safety of that security guard if necessary. But gradually I relaxed and began to enjoy myself, all alone on the quiet streets, the morning air fresh with the promise of a beautiful spring day and free to indulge my curiosity to it's full extent.

And then, I began to see them. The silent sleeping forms tucked away in the nooks and corners and doorways of the buildings, sound asleep, wrapped in filthy blankets, oblivious to my presence. I was startled by the first one and then began to notice them all over the place. It was an unsettling feeling, as if I was trespassing in their bedroom. The London I had experienced during the day was so different than this London in its early morning hours. I returned to the hotel a slightly different person.

I saw them again in 1995, in Hawaii this time. We had gone for a walk in the middle of the night and ended up in a park. We quickly realized that this wasn't the best place to be as the ground was covered by sleeping people. How many were actually homeless and how many were tourists who were saving on the cost of a hotel room, I don't know, but I again experienced that feeling of trespassing.

I don't see the homeless people of Edmonton sleeping mainly because I am tucked away in my own bed during the night. But I do see them, and recognize them during the day as they make their way around the streets of Edmonton. They don't scare me. They don't fill me with pity. They don't fill me with revulsion. I know that they are people, just like me, who through their experience of life have ended up where they are, in much the same way that I have ended up where I am. I know that there is a story for each and every one of them and I would be so pleased to be able to hear all those stories. And I am fully aware that circumstances in life could put any one of us in their place in a moment. We may think that we are safe and secure, but who knows what can happen.

And so these days, I am not thinking about over abundance as much when I see the shopping carts, as I am wondering what I would have in my cart if I was stuck in that sort of circumstance. I look around at all of the things I have gathered over the years and wonder what I have that I cannot live without. Of what I would keep in my shopping cart if that was the only room I had for my possessions. My laptop, of course, and it's adapter. My photo's all scanned on to flash drives so that I could see them on the laptop at anytime. My SCIO, to keep me and my friends healthy. My camera to record my life. A quality sleeping bag and a soft pillow. Rubber boots and lots of socks to keep my feet dry when it's wet (a week of rain at Disneyland taught me the importance of keeping my feet dry). Enough clothing that could be layered depending on the weather, eating utensils, and a can opener, a bag of toiletries perhaps....and what else. I'm not sure. What does one really need in one's shopping cart?

And then I think of my Royal Albert China which I have been gathering piece by piece over the years and which I have enough now to serve the whole family on, and I know I don't want to give it up and I know it wouldn't do well living in a shopping cart, and then there's my grandmother's china cabinet, and my expensive mattress that is so comfortable, and the portraits of my family on the walls, and...and...and I am so thankful that I am not in the situation that I have to live out of a shopping cart. But every time I see the carts I begin to wonder again: what would I have in my shopping cart?

And what would you have in yours?


About the Creator

Gail Wylie

Family therapist - always wanted to be a writer. Have published books on autism. Currently enjoying trying my hand at fiction. Loving the challenges of Vocal. Excited to have my first novel CONSEQUENCES available through Amazon.

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    Gail WylieWritten by Gail Wylie

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