There is a Home Depot on Ponce De Leon Avenue in Atlanta. It is in the same shopping center as Whole Foods, you can imagine how busy this place is. On the corner as you turn in there is always a host of men waiting there, looking to get hired as ‘Day Laborers’. I have never been one to look down on the men waiting there for work but, I have been guilty of not looking at them.
I am not feeling well today, and with two sick kids in tow it has just been slow-moving. After an hour of sitting at the doctor’s office and x-rays we headed off to Whole Foods for a slice of pizza and some steamed veggies. When we were through eating I exited the parking lot at the corner where the Home Depot men stand. I got to the intersection right as the light turned red. It is a long light and for some reason I was compelled to look over at the men. There was probably about ten or twelve men there but, one stood out from the rest. He was dressed nicely. He was wearing a really nice pair of shoes, clean jeans, a nice button down long-sleeved shirt, and a clean white baseball hat. I couldn’t help but watch him. I started to create a story about him.
He didn’t look homeless. He didn’t look like a drug addict. He looked like a regular guy, a ‘normal’ guy, whatever ‘normal’ is. I started thinking what if he has lost his job and can’t find work in his field? What if he is a father and has kids to feed? What amazing character he has to go out and do whatever it takes to take care of your family. What a great example for his kids. I was deep in this fantasy about a complete stranger.
Of course my story doesn’t mean anything, and probably most of it isn’t even true. For all I know he could be a wife-beating drug addict who was arrested 49 times since last year. We shall never know, but I like my story better.
I started immediately to think deeper. What if my story is true? How many times have you passed a homeless person on the street and not given them a second look? That could be any of us, really it could. If you follow my blog then you know that the economy has hit my family really hard. We have had to give up everything and start over. We are still okay and we have great family that has stood by us. What if you don’t have any family? What do you do then?
I really think we need to start thinking like a community. I think we need to start looking at people and seeing them for who they are, not where they live or what they have. I think we should reach out and connect with people. I am not suggesting that you run out and try to save every homeless person you meet but, a smile is a start. A kind gesture goes a long way.
I didn’t grow up having a lot. We grew up in a modest home, had food in our stomachs, and clothes on our backs. I always knew that I would be taken care of, but I also knew as a young child that everything could be taken away in an instant. I think that has been the saving grace in my life over the last few years. These are tough times we are living in now. The comforts that we have grown accustomed to could be taken away and then what? What do you do when it’s all gone? Who are you, if you don’t have your ‘things?”
Are these people that we see on the street sub-human because they don’t have homes?
What if they were you in a not so distant past? I think we have a habit of sympathizing with things only when they relate to us. I think we need to remember that pain, hurt and loss don’t know economic lines or ethnic background. We can all be affected by these issues.
Go out in your world and take the time to really look at someone. Take the time to see the people who you have chosen to eliminate from your field of vision. Go home and write about what you saw in their faces. Read it to yourself and think about what you saw that you never did before.