It was the last work day
before most of the people who were off work this last week were to return. It had been a hard week, trying to keep things going in their absence
Go out for drinks? Sure. That sounds great.
One of the people at the bar is the kind of person who you can really feel comfortable with. The kind of person whom you feel knows what you are thinking and feeling and accepts you anyway. Someone you instinctively trust. We talked. I later realized how cynical and emotionally numb I had become (protective measures). As the discussions continued, these protective attitudes were slowly peeled away, one layer at a time. Call it crap if you wish, but every time I get shoved together in close proximity with this person, I get the feeling the universe arranges things that way so that I can teach them something, or they can teach me something (most often a little of both). I enjoyed the drink, I enjoyed listening to the others. I enjoyed this person's presence.
By the time we all got up to leave, I realized that I was feeling things again, but I didn't realize to what extent. I went to the parking garage and found my car, paid the man in the booth and wished him a good evening. He smiled. The look on his face told me that I had given him a small but welcome gift. I pulled out onto the street and began driving south, towards the waterfront. I stopped at a red light. I felt confused. I felt emotions welling up that I had not felt in a while. Too many, simultaneously. I looked around at the people walking along the right hand sidewalk, passing shops and bars. So much movement, so much life, yet so aloof. I felt that if they just stopped and looked at me, they would see my soul, bared for all to see. At the corner, on the left side of the street where few people were walking, I saw two shoed feet protruding from under a dirty wool blanket. The owner was laying on the sidewalk in a semi-fetal position, with the wind blowing in all around the bottom of the blanket. The north wind blew steady and cold. The people on the other side of the street continued on, oblivious to the sleeping man. They have seen this too often. They have enough experience to be able to disconnect themselves from their surroundings as I always did. I at the moment could not.
I felt outrage bubbling up inside of me. How can my world be so messed up, so wrong? This man doesn't belong here! Why won't these masses of people do anything to help? Why won't I do anything to help? If each of us is not his brother's keeper, who will be? That man could very easily have been someone's father, brother, uncle, or husband. He could just as easily been me... or you. A gentle but pervasive sadness washed over me.
By the time I got home, I was very tired. I should have just gone to bed, but like that graphic rape scene I saw in a movie when I was 13 (the memory of which still makes me want to vomit 24 years later), the image of this sleeping man is etched into my mind, never to be forgotten.
I needed to get some of these emotions out of my head. I had to do something, however small, about this man living on the street.
I have done the only thing that I could at this time of night. I wrote it down. Here. So that while I sleep, you reading this, will be thinking about this man on the street, sleeping in the cold, on the hard cement, alone, without belongings, without hope. And it is my greatest wish that tomorrow, when you and I have a little more strength, together we can begin to make a difference in someone else's life. Even if that difference begins here, with your life and mine.