The Homeless Man

"Don't look at that man."
The Homeless Man. I recognized him, crouched over the sidewalk, holding a tin can for some money. He bowed his head down and he rarely made eye contact with people. Sometimes, I wonder if he had given up trying to plead, if he even wanted to live on his days for much longer. He was a shriveled old man with a white beard traveling down his dark overcoat. Lord knows how old he was, one year to the homeless was at least five for other folks, likely more.

Unexpectedly, he looked up, our eyes connecting for a fleeting second. There was no life in his pale-blue eyes. He looked miserable. Lost. Cold. Or maybe he felt none of these things, and I was simply projecting my emotions onto him.

I gave him a small smile, hoping that it would cheer him up a little, but he looked away. I presume the harshness of street life taught him to stay isolated in every way possible - even a stray glance could mean trouble he'd best avoid. Or perhaps, he didn't care for a smile, something that he no longer saw the value in.

I don't know. I am merely making assumptions about him, trying to imagine myself in his shoes. I wonder, in such a situation, would I lose faith in God? Would I resent my God for failing to protect me from suffering? Or would my faith in God enhance, since I'd need some form of Hope in such a desperate time?

Countless strangers passed the Homeless Man, some ignoring him nonchalantly while others were trying their best to avoid eye-contact with him. Trying to hurry past him, so they could forget about his existence. Some were looking at him with pity in their eyes, before they continued with their lives. How cruel it must be, to watch strangers pass by, turning a blind eye, while you're left in the cold, hungry and pleading for some change.

"Don't look at that man," my mother said. "Otherwise he'll beg."

"Can't we help him?" I asked, my heart feeling heavy.

"Don't be ridiculous," she replied. "He put himself in that situation. If he wanted to avoid this fate, he would have studied harder in school. He would've made something of himself. It's not our responsibility to take care of him."

I could recall our conversation as if it happened yesterday, although this happened months ago at this very location. Time had flown by and he's still there, in same crouching position, in that same overcoat, except one thing had changed. His spirit. In the past, he would attempt to beg for change, but now... he's simply quiet. He just held up his tin can and waited patiently. He didn't seem as though he expected anything to happen, like he was tired of fighting for his life... as though, he accepted his dead-end situation.

And I had to accept that I could do nothing to save him.
Published: 11/19/2018
Bouquets and Brickbats