Saturday, December 25, 2010
As I was walking home one night, after making my trek downtown, I saw a man shuffling along Clark Street several steps ahead of me. He seemed to be fairly well bundled up but there was something in the stoop of his shoulders that made me wonder...
I stepped up my pace and caught up with him in time to see that he indeed had a cup with a few coins in his hand. "Excuse me," I said. "Are you hungry?" He looked at me with a quiet gaze. "Yes, ma'am. Well. I'm okay. But maybe a little hungry." I asked, "How long's it been since you've eaten?" and, after a reflective sigh, was told, "I'm not sure. Two days maybe?" We happened to be near a sandwich shop. "C'mon," I said. "Let's get you something to eat." As it so happened, someone had taken me to lunch that day and I decided to pay their kindness forward.
After the gentleman received his food - again, I was astounded, by the way; contrary to the stigma of being greedy that so many homeless people are given, this guy practically had to be arm-wrestled into accepting my offer of a bag of chips, a cookie, and a beverage along with his sandwich! - we sat down and chatted.
This is Hank. He's worked his whole life until last spring when the company he worked for ran out of projects. Even though he himself has no home, once or twice each week, he volunteers at a neighborhood soup kitchen. Hank occasionally goes to homeless shelters for a night of sleep but not often. He says he feels that his few belongings are safer with him while he stays on the streets at night. I look at his cracked, raw hands and ask what he does to survive the weather. "That's just the thing," he answers. "I could ride the train a while but I don't dare fall asleep. If I do and the conductor doesn't come yell at me, another homeless person will find me, cut my pockets and take my things. You gotta keep your stuff close to you. So you walk all night and tell yourself, 'keep moving, keep moving,' and then, during the day, you try to find an out of the way place to sleep an hour or two."