I am currently looking for job which means that I am stuck at home for the time being. I can’t complain very much because I get to spend a lot more time on personal projects, plus I get to hang out with my three little dogs. In the past week, I’ve been diligent in taking them to the park. Every day, I came across an old man who pushed around a mini cart and scoured the park for trashcans. Living in this city has taught me to be wary of people regardless of how innocent they may seem. For the first few days, my dogs and I walked on by without so much as a hello. I kept my eye on the man, however, and he would just mind his own business and dig through all the trashcans he could find. He didn’t bother anyone else at the park, never asked for money or food, never really approached anyone.
Today, I saw him moving on to another trashcan and he looked right at me. I assume he’s in his sixties or seventies and he was nothing but skin and bones. I’m around 117 pounds and his arms were tinier that mine. They were dry, completely wrinkled and he moved so slow. Most of his weight was shifted onto the cart he was pushing. I said hi. He didn’t respond. I walked away with my dogs.
I thought about him when I dropped the dogs off at home, and I thought to myself, I’m still in a pretty good place. I set off to the grocery store and purchased a few items. As I was going up and down the aisles thinking what I could buy that wouldn’t spoil as soon as it was opened, I stopped and thought about what I had and he didn’t. I couldn’t get some foods because he didn’t have a fridge; I couldn’t get others because he didn’t have a microwave.
I settled on the following:
Bread, peanut butter and jelly mix (NO IDEA THOSE EXISTED), honey buns, Cheezit crackers, mandarin orange cups, a pack of spoons, and a gallon of water.
It cost me roughly $14.
I went back to the park and searched for the homeless man and I found him about ten minutes later. True to nature, he was reaching into another trashcan. I grabbed the food I bought and slowly approached him. I kept calling out to him, saying hi and hello. He at first didn’t respond. I called out louder and this time he lifted his head and looked behind him. I was directly in front of him, so I’m lead to believe he could have both a hearing and sight issue. When he finally saw me, I waved. “Hi! Do you remember me?” I asked him.
He didn’t speak English. Frack. So ensued a horrible round of charades on my part. “I saw you this morning. Do you remember me?” I asked again. I pointed to the spot where we saw each other and then I placed my palm on my chest. He responded, but I had no idea what he was saying and I didn’t recognize any of the words he was muttering out. I took some hardcore Spanish in 8th grade, trust me, but everything he said to me didn’t register. I showed him the bags and said, “I bought you food. You’re hungry, right?” He said something else. Nothing. I walked around the trashcan and placed the bags next to his feet. I pointed at the food then to him. “This is for you. Take it.” He said a few more things and I shook my head, “I don’t understand.” I again gestured toward the bags of food then lifted my arms like I was giving them to him. “These are for you.” He said “bueno.” THAT I UNDERSTOOD!
There was nothing left to say. I just waved at him again. “So… take care of yourself, ok?” And I went back to my car and drove back home.
I don’t know how long that food will last him, and I have no idea if he has any family that can take care of him. When you stop and just think about everything you have in your life and you compare it to someone who has nothing, to someone that was searching for plastic bottles and scraps of food, an epiphany hits you and you begin to have a newfound appreciation for everything. The fact that you are able to read this on a phone or a computer already says that you have a pretty good life.
Don’t take the people, the things, or the opportunities you have in your life for granted. We are human, so it happens from time to time, but try to train yourself to be grateful for what you have. I sometimes look at the people in my life and I want to say ‘you have it SO good! Why can’t you see that?’ but I hold my tongue. I can only hope that experiences like these serve as a reminder to not let the good people slip through one’s fingers, that having a roof over one’s head is in fact a pretty sweet deal. I may not have a job right now, but I am very wealthy in family, friends, and dogs that care for and love me. New exercise: remind myself of that every day for the rest of my days.