For the month of July, my hours at work have been altered. Where I used to work midnight to 8 a.m., I am currently working 4 p.m. to midnight.
I tend to drive southbound on Lake Avenue, west on Brown Street. At the corner of Brown and West Broad, there is a homeless man. While the picture associated with this blog is not of the actual man I see, it is a close resemblance.
The man stands at the four-way intersection with a sign. To tell the truth, I have never taken the time to read it. In a row of cars stopped at the red light, I watched this man. His clothes were filthy. Tan khakis, a partially torn grey t-shirt and a blue hoodie. His shoes are undefinable, and I have not noticed if he is wearing socks. Although I should, since the khakis are too short to cover all of his legs.
That first day I saw him, I felt something inside. When I worked at Kodak, I used to make regular trips to the Department of Labor on Waring. At the Inner loop ramp, there would be this “homeless” woman. I use quotes, because, she was all decked out. Fur coat, and high heels. Long, thick, curly blond hair, and fashionable sunglasses. She held up a sign, too. Said she was hungry. She might have been. I just wasn’t feeling charitable in that circumstance. Part of me wanted to tell her to poor-it-up some. Lose the fur, and evening gown.
The guy on West Broad, different story. He was not clean-shaven, his skin taut over a skeletal frame, his cheeks concave.
That first time seeing him, I looked around inside my car for something. Anything I could hand off to the man when the light turned green. I had just under a dollar in change in the cup holder. I dug it out, and as I came upon him, I stopped, and held out the change. Long, bony fingers, and a dirty palm accepted the money. I saw it in his eyes. Shame. Humility.
The next day, when I drove to work, he was there. I had an orange and an apple ready for him. And as I came to the inter section, I stopped. Cars behind me. No one honked as I handed fruit out my window.
In the days since, I have delivered energy bars, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and more fruit. I am not big on handing out money. Also, don’t have much of my own to be handing it out. But when I make a lunch for work (which I do on this new schedule, not so much on the over-nights), I make a little extra for him.
The thing is, the guy looks hungry. He looks homeless. When I hand him off food, he isn’t looking at me. Has never looked at me. He stares at the food. And sometimes, before I complete my turn onto West Broad, he is sitting against the building digging in.
I think about my family and friends. An awesome ring of support. I have been fortunate with my health, and employment. Aside from ten months where I was unemployed between working at Kodak, and 9-1-1, I have had a job since the age of fourteen. While money is often tight, the belt pulled snug, I’ve managed to make payments on all of my bills, and raise a family. There was a brief period where I was going through a divorce and between jobs where my parents allowed me to move in with them, asked me to stay as long as needed until my finances were back in order.
That is support. Love.
I do not know this man’s situation, background, nor do I need to. I am not supporting a possible drug or alcohol habit. I am merely sharing some of my fortune with someone less fortunate.
The man who accepted the food offering with humility, humbled me. I, every day, take for granted all that I have. I forget how lucky I have been. This man, this frail homeless man, has reminded me, has forced me to remember not to take for granted anything.
I know there are people who disagree with what I’ve written, that would prefer to tell a beggar to get a job. I have not walked in the shoes of the man I see. Nor do I ever wish too.