The Man On The Corner

homeless

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.

Have you?

Sincerely,

Phillip Tomasso

About the author

12 thoughts on “The Man On The Corner”

  1. With all the schemes and scams at every level of society, it’s hard to know when you’re being “taken” and when not. But, sometimes your gut just tells you the right thing to do. You have my deepest respect for doing what you are doing. Sure, it’s a small thing for you, but not for him. You also have my respect for sharing the story. It’s a story that needs to be told and re-told, because we all need to be reminded that there are people who need our help and ways we can help them. Thank you for reminding me.

  2. Phil:

    They say everything happens for a reason. Maybe this was the reason your schedule changed. I play the lotto on occassion. If I ever won, the first thing I would do would be to make a sizeable donation to some charity like Open Door Mission and the Humane Society. I wish I could do more now.

  3. “True charity is more than flinging a coin at a beggar, it’s changing the system that produced the beggar in the first place.” MLK

    We have tendency to believe that there are no such things as unfortunate people, only lazy ones. But 2/3 of the world live on less than a dollar a day. There can’t be that many lazy people in the world. Wake up people.

  4. What, no drug test before this man received his charity? Why not make him feel even more degraded than he already is?

  5. Phil,
    You are a wonderful person. I believe that every good thing that someone does for someone else, will have good things come back to them.

  6. Well said. As human beings, we have the ability to “see” others and either choose to help…or to look awkwardly away. You’ve chosen to see this man for who he is and in turn he’s shown you how lucky and blessed you are. Our children learn from example. I remember, before our son was born, if I’d seen a homeless person, I too would awkwardly look away, uncomfortable on how the image made me feel. Now, I look at them, really look trying to see who they are, what they might have been and when my son looks now, he’ll ask questions that I feel safe in answering, instead of something negative or shameful about a person that I know nothing of. This is a great piece, well done.

  7. If he actually takes the food, then he’s different from many beggars that I’ve encountered. They’ll turn down the food! A car comes and picks them up at the end of their shift. I assume they get a cut or a bottle or something. This man sounds like he probably needs taking care of.

  8. Phil,

    I think what you are doing for this man is wonderful. You have been both been brought together at this point in time for a reason. There are still a few of our forgotten Vietnam vets living out on the streets, as well as newer vets who find that they are unable to handle the horrors they saw during war and have no support system. You never know, you may be showing one of them that someone does still care. Anyone you help in these circumstances needs to know that. And by giving him food, you know he’s getting a least one good meal a day. Maybe one of those drivers behind you, who is in a position to do more, will follow your example and do so.

  9. It’s a hard choice to give or not. In Chicago I was told not to give as the supposedly homeless street people were hired to beg money. I don’t know. I’ve also heard those with I need a job signs and money cups on the street take home lots of money and don’t want a job. I don’t know. Its a hard to contemplate: give to the poor and desperate, or be taken advantage of. I guess in the long haul, I’d rather be taken advantage of, but like you, don’t have a lot to give. Where I live the poverty is kept undercover, but we found a neighbor in desperate circumstances and helped him. I guess like everything else, we have to choose where to best use our charity.

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