till living doesn’t feel like giving up

About twice a month, sometimes three or four times a month I have to travel to different municipal or state agencies to file things for clients of my company. And now and again I’ll go see a few of clients during the month.

As a result I see quite a bit of the city as I drive around. Probably not nearly as much as some outside sales people but more than your average guy stuck in an office.

So last week I was on my way back from the State Comptroller’s Office and I saw a guy on a corner holding a sign. There are so many people doing this. Unbelievable how many. And it’s sad that in our country people have had to resort to this to stay alive.

But for some I wonder if it really is their last option. I mean there’s a a young guy (mid to late 20’s) near my office who claims on his sign to be a Marine Corps veteran. I don’t know, maybe he is. There is a couple that looks to be in their mid-50’s who wheel their down syndrome daughter out to the side of the road with them asking for money. There is one woman I remember seeing who put on such a display of despair as motorists drove by I felt embarrassed for her because it seemed so fake.

Maybe I’m just too jaded or I don’t know… wary. But these three examples of people begging for subsistence seems like an act. And so last week, when I saw yet another guy, holding a sign, I didn’t think much of it but the light turned red and I had a chance to…

well to pay a little more attention.

I don’t know. Something about his posture. Something about him just made me think twice give in. So I rolled down my window and gave him a few dollars. When he came up to me I said, “hang in there brother. Hang in there.” He said, “I’m trying. I’m giving it all to God. God bless you young man. Thank you so much.”

In our exchange he seemed ashamed and I couldn’t tell if it was sweat or tears that lined his cheeks but I was moved.

I don’t know what his story is. I don’t know if he really is out of work, is mentally disturbed, a scam artist, an artist artist, or Jesus come down to judge us but this song by a local singer/songwrier was playing on my CD player as I sat at the red light and it made the whole scene… the whole interaction so much more real.  And I felt sorry for him. And I prayed a little prayer for him. And I had tears in my eyes, perhaps not only for him but myself as well.  I am thankful for grace of God, my good fortune and own determination that I am not in his place.

Music by Sara Van Buskirk
Find more of Sara’s music here

6 responses to “till living doesn’t feel like giving up

  1. I’ve been meaning to comment on this since I read it a week ago. It should say something about your article that it has stuck with me for that long.

    When I lived in Seattle, I went to a graduate school that worked closely with the homeless there, including an entire group of homeless individuals that came together into one big Tent City.

    One of the things I learned is that being homeless is a hard job. I know of no other job that endures so much in the way of humiliation, extreme weather, danger, and degradation of spirit. It requires skill in marketing, even though we don’t usually see it that way, and a hope that someone out there will reach their hand to yours with more than just some spare change.

    I also learned that it’s the only job where people feel compelled to moralize about how you spend the money you have received as “payment”. There are lots of high-paid individuals who earn their money in traditional ways and no one ever says a word about how they spend it, even if they use it for drugs and alcohol. Once I hand my money over to someone, it is not up to me to grumble about how that person spends it or to belittle that person for being a drunk or druggie. It’s not my money anymore after that. So, if I don’t like not knowing what that person does with the money I give, I should not give it.

    There are two times that stand out to me in giving to the homeless. One involved a smile, and the other, a rose.

    The smile was all I had to give when I walked down the wet street near Pioneer Square in downtown Seattle. The man to whom I gave it lit up and said it was the first smile he’d seen all week. He thanked me with exuberance for looking him in the eyes like a real person. His response made me feel like *he* had given *me* a bag of gold.

    The other time was when I happened to have a five dollar bill and a yellow rose in my possession on a bright sunny day driving back from school. I pulled over to the side when I saw a “regular” on one of the street corners I passed and I prayed the light wouldn’t change such that I would block traffic too much by being there. The raggedy old man came to my car, I rolled down the window, and handed him the fiver and the rose. He cried. His toothless grin rattled as he told me no woman had ever given him a rose before and then he went on to say that if I ever needed anything that he could provide, just go look for Chuck. He and his two dogs would do everything in their power to help me.

    Finally, what I learned from these encounters is that these are real people. For whatever reason they are on those corners and by-ways (and the reasons are many), they are there to tell us something about who we are as a society and as individuals. Our response to them says a lot about what’s in our heart.

    Thank you for your article that reminded me of this. Living in a suburb of Phoenix, I don’t encounter the homeless as much anymore. It’s too hot in the summer to hang out on the streets and, besides, those steamy streets are just tougher overall. I am thankful to participate in a “water” program through the Salvation Army which provides cool drinking water, sunscreen, and some clean t-shirts, undies, etc. to the homeless and destitute. I will admit to you, though, that I am more protective here just because, as I said, the homeless in these parts have to be a lot tougher to survive.

    Blessings to you, your family, and your garden. 🙂

    • Hey Sherry… well, i’ve been wanting to reply to your comment for more than a week. I read it and re-read it and all i can think to say is thank you for adding to this post. Very enlightening and heartfelt comment thank you.

  2. Odd, there must be something in the air. I just blogged about a homeless guy, too. I’m afraid it’s going to get worse.

    Maybe it’s just the innate human troubleshooting ability — we are problem solvers, by nature, and it doesn’t take much sometimes for that mental program to project trouble.

    So I hope it’s my imagination. But there are an awful lot of people in the world now, and we seem to be bumping up again the realization of finite resources, among other troubles.

    Good for you, Julian, and hang in there, buddy.

    • Ombud, I’ve been wanting to comment on your post for sometime but haven’t been able to yet. But I hear shades of a comment you left a long time ago on one of my posts and I wish I could remember which one it was. Your statement has been stuck in my head ever since and has lead me to do a number of searches on overpopulation. You said something to the effect of that being the root problem of most of the ills of the world.

      I am beginning to agree after much research on the net and some thought of my own.

  3. What makes it seem tricky, I think, is that it’s such a simple phrase one expects it couldn’t possibly address all of our problems.

    But think of it: would we have pollution problems if we didn’t have too many people on the planet? Would we have lost so much rainforest and so much habitat endangering so many species? If we didn’t have too many people trying to control finite lands, would wars be so prevalent? Would we have so much hunger? Would global warming be an issue?

    I suppose you could bring up health issues, but really, medicine has come such a long way in the last century, we are blessed with far better health care than older generations enjoyed.

  4. I was moved by this post, Julian. Thank you.

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