A Friend In Need, Fucked Up Indeed

16 10 2010

Man…. I just got home from a night that I’d prob rather forget, and to cap it off, I thought I was going to go to one of my fave places to eat late night, Casbah Cafe (Right to the left of Barflyy) and go home with a smile on my face, but as I left my friends and made my way to my apt building door, i spot a homeless guy trying to look for scraps of food/cigarettes. He picked up a half a pizza crust, and tossed it back to the ground.  As he was throwing it down, I was literally right next to him and found myself cupping my whole sandwich (which I was gonna save from the food spot to eat on my own couch), while I turned towards my door and punched in my code to get into my building (where I wouldn’t have to worry about people hitting me up for money, food, time, or anything else I felt like I couldn’t share).

As I stood there waiting for the elevator, a feeling came over me.  I’d like to say that feeling was guilt. I feel like it was more than that. Like I was thumbing my nose at my fellow brother in need. Dude had on a beat up pair of shoes, some sweatpants, a plastic bag on his head under his had, and a dirty overcoat. He never even spoke to me while he was looking at that pizza crust. He didn’t ask me for shit, seeing me as I went into the building my domicile was housed in.  This is what got compounded into the overwhelming feeling that told me that I had forgone the Christ-like attitude we are supposed to have for our fellow man at a baseline level. Had I come so far that I couldn’t relate to a person who had to live hand to mouth?  Do we all think that we have come that far? Have we become so comfortable as middle class (to wealthy), that we feel like we should just give money to organizations instead of helping the people in obvious need right in front of our faces? I’d like to think that we all still maintain that nagging feeling to help the people we see who need it.

Have you seen those meters that tell us to give the change we would otherwise give panhandlers, that were put up by the Downtown Cleveland Alliance? Or the signs that say that we shouldn’t give to people on the street?  I think it’s a good idea in theory, but I think that things like that desensitize us to the people that really do need help that don’t even ask for anything. Studies show that most homeless people don’t even ask for money. So instead of seeing someone with their hand out, and turning off to anyone else who has their hand out, or looks like they are homeless and could POTENTIALLY ask us for something, maybe we just need to train ourselves to just see past the panhandlers, and try and seek out the people who DON’T ask, yet we know that they are in need. Like we all are. It’s just that they just need more than we do.

Back to my story….. I’m standing there in my building lobby wondering what’s taking me so long to go and find the guy and give him the sandwich and i’m reminded by a story my mother once told me. In this particular story, she told me of being in an open park. Grassy knolls all over the place and tons of visibility. A person asked her for help. She obliged, giving up the coins in her purse with no hesitation. No sooner had she turned around, she felt the need to give a second look and found- to her surprise- that the person who had just been standing in front of her had literally disappeared. In a public park! With no trees around! Hundreds of feet from any sort of cover!  You can take it to mean what you will, but I think that we are all tested in certain ways that make no sense at all, but are all part of the bigger plan to teach and mold us.

So anyways…. I’m sure  now you are wondering what happened to the man in the dirty overcoat… I’m certain that I have drudged the story around enough, lol.  In the end, I waited for the elevator to hit the lobby, took a small bite of the sandwich I had waited so long to devour (to see if it was fit to eat…. and because I was starving, lol. I figure if I’m gonna do a good deed anyways, I at least have to sample the merchandise!!!), and went back to the street in search of the man.  As I went after him southbound on E. 4th, there were about 10 people that he had passed by that had not given him a second look, and he did not bother them in return. Upon hitting Prospect, I caught up with him and asked if he wanted my sandwich. “Steak and cheese,” I told him, and he thanked me. No patting myself on the back, or drawn out reason I was giving it up. I just gave him the sandwich and turned back to go home.

Writing this is no pat on the back for myself either. Yes, in the end I did the right thing by most accounts, but writing this is a public chastisement of myself and why I not only didn’t help him sooner, but why I neglected to act IMMEDIATELY when I recognized a person in real need. If you take nothing away from this, just remember that lesson. Don’t wait for a person to ask you to help them, look for the people to help and just do it, if you can.

It’s about bedtime now, so I’ll leave you to it, but thanks for listening…. I’m sure i’ll have more crazy shit to talk about soon, but I do wear my heart on my electronic sleeve, and would be remiss if I didn’t share this with you while it was terrorizing my brain…. Until next time….1



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