Yesterday I pulled into a fueling station near the YMCA. My intent to merely get a snack so that I didn’t fall over from hunger during my workout.
As I sat enjoying my salad I noticed a man seemingly homeless take a seat on the ground. I knew I didn’t have any cash, and I realized he was watching me as much as I was him.
I walked over, and had a short conversation.
He admitted he’d just gotten out of the hospital, and they’d given him a one way bus ticket so he could get anywhere in the city he wanted. He mentioned that he had been treated for alcohol abuse and dehydration, but said he also had cancer and only one kidney. He was a veteran that had been discharged dishonorably, but didn’t elaborate as to why.
I told him I had no cash, and not much for resources, but I offered to get him something from inside so he would at least have a full belly.
His request was 2 corndogs & a beer. I said I’d do what I could.
As I entered the store, my knee-jerk-reaction was skip the beer. I bought him the corndogs, a bag of chips, a candy bar, and a tea.
I justified not getting the beer because he’d been in the hospital because of alcohol; besides society insists that alcohol is the reason that homeless people are homeless (though I have more than a few doubts about the accuracy of that simply based on my own life experience).
As I took him the drink and bag of goodies, I could see the disappointment over the beer. As I stood there apologizing for my choice, 2 other people walked up and gave him change. I was glad my action triggered generosity and said he probably now had enough to get his cold beer should one of the ones in the store meet his liking. I told him good luck and that I needed to be going.
As I headed down to the Y, my decision over the beer haunted me.
On one hand he’d been in the hospital, the last thing he needed was something to trigger another trip there. Or was it?
He said he had cancer and one kidney. He confessed to not eating much ever. The hospital was probably the first real meal and shower he’d had in months, most likely the most fluids he’d imbibed in months as well.
Beyond that, I, nor anyone there that day, was in a position to do him any lasting good. He knew his fate was to return to his destitute wanderings, until one day he would just sit or lie down and never get up again. There is no cancer treatment for the homeless, even when they’ve been diagnosed through an ER trip.
I had to stop and think. If I’d been in his shoes, I’d have probably really wanted a stiff drink myself, hell, I’d have wanted lots of stiff drinks. Let’s face it, I’ve drank much more than one drink over much less in the hardships department.
I simply can’t imagine knowing that I was going to die alone destitute on the streets. It was heartbreaking for me. That is exactly the person I want to be able to create real change for. To at least give them a fighting chance.
I prayed to the divine. I asked forgiveness for failing to meet his only request. I begged that someone else would overcome societal pressures, the stigma of homeless and alcohol, so that he’d get his temporary reprieve. I then prayed that he might find more continuous relief, or simply a peaceful quiet transition with minimal suffering. I prayed that our society let go of judgements, assumptions, and stigmas surrounding the homeless. I prayed that people open their minds and hearts to find lasting solutions for people like him.
I think if only I could build Atira and give him and many others a fighting chance, a reason to live, I could make a huge impact on the world and our society. I prayed that God might grant me the ability to do that, or at least someone soon. It doesn’t really have to be me, as long as someone starts putting our own citizens, our own veterans, our own lost-&-forgotten, first. I prayed that a way be made, to accomplish that, and offered my hand in the process, in whatever way the divine sees fit.
My challenge to those reading this, is evaluate:
What assumptions have you made?
What beliefs do you hold that may not be so accurate, & where did you learn them? Can those beliefs be overwritten in your brain?
What could you do differently in the future?
None of us are super-human, but what else could you be doing to help, not only our society as a whole, but individuals like that man?
Be the change you wish to see.