Not Fade Away

© Robert Pinero and me

I recently saw a homeless man hovering on a stone bench in a transit hub . . . While unfortunately something like that is not a rare occurrence, the guy looked more disoriented than one would typically expect.  With this being glaringly obvious, in fact, I had to wonder why I was the only one who looked at him for more than a split-second.

Skinny as heck, with a Styrofoam platter of food next to him, the guy was trying to stay upright but waning somewhere between dozing and restlessness.   Just going to sleep did not seem like an option for him, which is probably easily understandable.  Yeah, he might have had a drug problem.  But even if that old, so-called truism was accurate, it’s a pretty flimsy reason to discount the intrinsic nature of someone’s value.  In order to let people be what are essentially phantoms, we tend to tell ourselves they pretty much deserve it.  They’re not good.  But it’s as likely as anything that he was a bit broken, and he couldn’t pull himself together and had no place to rely on so that he could keep trying.

I’m sorry to say that I didn’t do anything for him.  I didn’t really know what to do, but be on my way.  I suppose one of the reasons people don’t see folks like that is because there are often no easy solutions, and no one really wants to dwell on circumstances like that.  There’s probably about a million apps that you could dwell on instead.  But take those away, and I’m not sure people wouldn’t just ignore letting that guy fade away then, too.

More than once I’ve heard people from scenic, lovely places talk about the coldness of people that are not acclimated to their particular surroundings.  It’s a sentiment I always find ridiculous.  One of the things people expect of scenic places is to be away from having to so closely see people hover on the edge of existence.  If it takes something extraordinary to not let one’s sense of empathy atrophy as they get older, it’s a whole lot easier to just buy into something that has a nice looking roster.

The hardest and best thing about life is probably other people (Take whatever else you enjoy about life and imagine yourself doing it on a planet devoid of everyone else, and it’ll likely lose its luster).  Generally, it’s as easy to focus on the negative as it is to take the positive for granted, but, really, navigating the world of people is, from its least privileged vantage point, very challenging.


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