suburbs

The Picture I Didn’t Take…

Going about my business yesterday, I drove right past an ordinary-looking man sitting on the sidewalk on the street.   He looked like any other “dad” type man, nothing especially bedraggled about him at all.   No fancy jacket, just some sort of non-nondescript long coat, and a multicolored (not in a good way) hat.

What caught my attention was the way he sat with his knees drawn up, as if he were not really expecting anyone to notice him, as if he were lost in his thoughts. 

That and the small cardboard sign, small enough to have been ripped off the top of a moving box, that stated simply “Anything is helpful.”

I wanted to pull over and give him my coffee, which I had just gotten at Starbucks, for lack of a more edgy place nearby.    Or maybe my son’s hot chocolate – he will never miss it, I reasoned, since he doesn’t know I have gotten him one.   Surely this man needed it more; surely he could be made briefly just a bit happier by a cup of coffee or hot chocolate on a 55 degree morning…

The trouble with helping people on street corners is more obvious downtown, where you can see it in many of the eyes of those who ask for help that they are taking you for a ride.    You can see it in the eyes of the urban natives, as they watch the little short girl get approached – already judging me as a silly tourist for not being a total jerk to them.    Sometimes I stop and talk with the more entertaining ones outside the Art Institute.    But mostly, I shake my head and go on my way, as I have been a grownup now for quite some time, and am not so naive.    I feel sad when a super cute chick, who seems put together and intelligent, comes up to me in the parking garage, giving me the line that she needs money for gas to get back to wherever.    I say sorry, I don’t have any cash.   But I want to say, SERIOUSLY?

So with these thoughts tumbling around, I didn’t give him anything.   I had already gone by anyhow.   But it bugged me all day.   Because my sense was that maybe he was one of the ones that do need help…   And so if I see him today, I think I will definitely buy him a cup of something helpful… Not like that makes me a good person, or like it’s going to change his life beyond those few moments of warmth…

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One thought on “The Picture I Didn’t Take…

  1. I always hated being approached by folks when I was in school in the city. Having grown up in a small town, I never knew what to say. I was just a poor college kid myself. But now, as an adult with two mouths of my own to feed, it's very difficult for me to see people, especially families or parents, begging on the street. It breaks my heart to think that they're doing what they have to do, literally.Kudos to you for being bugged by it; it's a good thing to be compassionate! I hope you DO see him today and I hope your kindness brightens his life a little bit.Best wishes,CatherineBetween The Shotshttp://between-the-shots.blogspot.com/

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