Last month I was in a serious car accident that was unexpected to say the least. I was on my way home from the vitamin shop, and despite the fact that I had a green arrow to turn onto a ramp entering the freeway, and gentlemen in a truck decided to not pay attention to the fact that I had the right of way or his yield sign for reasons beyond my imagination, and slammed into me. Now in the grand scheme of things I should just be happy that I wasn't killed. And from this point forward when people say, "I feel like I've just been hit by a truck", I can say that I know what that's like. But that's besides the point. I eventually managed to get home safely and have my car towed away by the insurace company to be appraised and I was eager to find out if my car would be repaired or totalled out.
What ensued during this process, really gave me some perspective on how one bad incident can competely change your life and how no one would have a clue how bad things could get. It took about a week, with my badgering and calling the claims adjuster repeatedly before the insurace company got back to me to let me know that my car was repairable (You have no idea how happy I was to hear that). But I must admit that early on in the process I was extremely annoyed because as a paying customer, I felt like I shouldn't have had to be the one to badger or continuously contact my insurance company just to get information on my vehicle. Even if things were moving slow, it would have been nice if after several days, I would have recieved a call from the adjuster letting me know that they were still actively trying to sort things out.
As that initial week passed and I got word about my car beginning the repair process, I had to dig to find out information about a rental car as none of this information was offered to me by the insurance company. I wasn't sure whether my insurance company would cover it or the other parties insurance company would cover it but I was determined to find out and I didn't want to be responsbile for the rental fees either. After making a series of phone calls two both agencies, which are two reputable agencies by the way, I was told that I could rent a car at about thirty to forty dollars a day and that payment would be due when I returned the rental car. I also learned that I would be coming out of pocket for this rental and I would have to be reimbursed by the insurance company later on after turning in my reciepts from renting a car. Not knowing how long repairs would take on my car I didn't want to get a rental just yet because I didn't want to have to come out of pocket for an unforseen amount of days which can add to a large sum very fast.
So I proceeded to car pool or catch rides back and forth from work for a couple of days to save a couple of dollars, which I was eternally grateful for! Judging by the fact that it took so long to get any feedback about my car when it was first towed away, I was skeptical when the body shop finally told me that repairs should only take about five to seven business days. After those few days of car pooling I came into more good fortune as the father of one of my friends heard about my car accident and how much trouble I was having with my insurance company and decided to help me out by allowing me to borrow one of his spare cars that sat in his driveway, free of charge. I was again, extremely lucky and figured I probably wouldn't be getting my car back in the five to seven days the body shop promised but it shouldn't be to much longer than that so I would probably only need his vehicle for maybe three to four days tops.
Boy was I wrong! Not only was I the one that had to contact the autobody shop to find out that my car wouldn't be ready when they inititally promised (a call to me would have been very appreciated instead of me having to track down the information would have been great), the entire ordeal with the time I spent without my own car turned out to be a little over a month. Now some of you who've been through this may be saying, "That's not bad, why's that such a big deal?" Or you may be saying, "Well atleast you could get back and a forth to work and you didn't have to pay for a rental." The point is, that this entire process took well over a month is in itself an issue. The fact that all the companies that were involved and expect payment, like clock work every month and take payment automatically from your checking account instantly, but can't cover the cost of your rental on the spot is an issue.
The fact that the auto body shop, who I had to harrass for information about my car, but had the time to make sure that either I, my insurance company, or the other parties insurance company had and would be paying the deductable before allowing me to pick up the car is an issue. It's ridiculous to think that you will take your time with my vehicle and not communicate with me at all, but the lines of communication are just fine and expedient when it comes to payment. Where is the customer service!? And as for the rental car, what would have happened had I not been able to borrow a car and had to rent a vehicle? What if I couldn't have afforded to pay the tab for renting a car for over a month? What would have happened to me then? Why would an insurance company who has no problem instantly taking money from you, make you wait to be reimbursed for out of pockets payments rather than making the payments directly? Is this not one of the reasons we pay insurance companies so much money?
I fortunately had enough money to pay for the rental had I needed to and my deductible but what If I was someone living paycheck to paycheck? I can totally see how a situation like this could break someone, not just finanically but mentally. These are the type of situations that cause people to miss work and lose jobs or go in debt and not be able to pay bills. I could have easily been someone who would have had to use up the little money that I had to pay these fees and not been able to pay my rent, buy food or pay numerous other bills which could have also resulted in late fees and numerous other financial burdens. An incident like this could have left someone without the financial resources or relationships with individuals that I have homeless and in financial ruin.
I realize that some of you may look at this as a dramatization but think about it. It really hit me after coming out of the back end of this situation and over hearing someone talk about homeless people. I had to address the situation because who are we to judge or say anything? We don't know their situation or their life story and hardships. Just about all the homeless people that you see are not there for a lack of want or ambition. These people didn't decide that they wanted to be homeless nor did bad decisions lead them to living in the streets. Many of those people could have been living a normal life, living paycheck to paycheck and wound up in a situation just like me. They could have found themselves in a car wreck or unforseen medical situation that caused them to miss work or put a financial burden on them that they were unable to reconcile. Their everyday struggle was up ended sending them to the streets, where they encounter many other more fortunate people walking past them on a daily basis only to judge or ignore them.
These homeless people become the eyes sores of the community and the object of our sneers and discontent all because of chance, because of badluck. I'm sure some of you have seen the data, many of our homeless are actually people who are dealing with mental health issues. These are people who find themselves in our streets and in the cold simply because they've fallen through the cracks of a healthcare system that sees them as expendable due to their corporate causes and bottom line. All it would take is proper healthcare and resources to address their mental health issues, but we as a society choose to ignore them, walk past them while they suffer from hunger and make them fend for themselves.
Many of our homeless citizens are veterans, men and woman who went off to war and to defend our country only to come home with mental health issues or unable to find a job and support system in a place they called home and eventually see our society spit them out on the street corners and homeless shelters, lost amongst the midst of others. I need you all to think about that when you're out screaming "support the troops!" and eager to send these men and women off to war. I need you to remember that when you're complaining because you see an NFL player kneeling during the anthem as a form of peaceful protest, something these soldiers fought for, yet you can't even lend these same soldiers a helping hand.
Ask yourself, was that a veteran that you ignored and walked past as they were sleeping on the street, or swallowed their pride to ask you for spare change and you kept walking or rudely replied, "Get a job!", as if they haven't already tried that before? I'm saying all this to say that the system that we live in is a cruel game. It's especially cruel to those who aren't fortunate to have an excess amount of money lying around or a support system who can lend a helping hand. Yet everyday we walk around like we are safe and secure from being in the same position as those that we turn our nose up to. You need to know and remember that we are all one accident or medical emergency away from being in the streets, especially if you are living paycheck to paycheck as many in our country are. You are one bad day away from being fired at your job, which could lead to you losing your home and standing in the line at the local food shelf or emergency shelter.
Being someone who comes from meager beginnings this was something that I already knew all to well. This past December it was something that I was reminded of, and still sits in the forefront of my mind as it should also sit in the forefront of yours. The next time you walk past a homeless person on the street and ignore them, the next time you feel inconvenienced by a homeless person asking you for something, remember that they aren't in their current situation position for a lack of want, for a lack of work ethic. Instead, think about what you can do to help them and think about what their story must be. Because their story could be very similar to a story that you yourself may have to tell one day!