Yesterday my three kids and I were driving home from their school. A beautiful 85F day. Hot for the last day in September. At the intersection of Foster and Pulaski, I noticed a man crawling on the ground. He appeared to be early to mid-fifties. It’s so hard to tell with weather-beaten homeless people, who are exposed to the elements year-round. He appeared to be naked. One or two of the kids noticed him too. I can’t remember which. He was on the opposite side of the road.
“Mom. Did you see the man?”
“We’re going back.”
I turned the car and got to him. The kids stayed in the car. I did not want him to feel like a circus attraction. He looked completely harmless. He was standing now. Severely hunched over, but clothed. His white shirt was so dirty, it was the color of his dark-tanned white skin. His shorts were khaki. He had white, white hair.
“Hi. I noticed you were on the ground. Are you okay?”
“I’m just a bit slow to get up.”
“Do you need any type of help?”
He was so grateful that someone cared enough to stop. I gave him some money. How much or little is irrelevant. I just wanted to check on him. We swapped names. His is Bill. He had beautiful, piercing blue eyes. Mesmerizing. He asked me to take off my sunglasses so we could see each other. I did. That eye-contact and smile at each other were lovely. Not some fairytale bond until the end of time. Just two people seeing each other. Metaphorically. We spoke for a minute, and I went on my way.
When I got back into the car, the kids asked me what happened. I told them. They started asking questions. I was a little emotional, but we talked about it on the rest of the way home. The kids made statements really, over questions. Maybe rhetorical questions.
“Mom. You have to help people right?”
“Yes, honey.” I nodded.
“He needed help, right?”
“I wasn’t sure, baby. You can’t wait for other people to do things, otherwise, nothing happens. Nobody helps each other.”
This continued until they were satisfied. I had tears in my eyes. I can’t fully explain why. Maybe the release that I knew Bill was okay? For now. Maybe upset that no one else stopped. I don’t think I’m an angel or hero saving people. I do feel we have a duty to help others – when we can. Maybe beyond a duty, that enough of us should (or do) have enough empathy to reach out to those less fortunate.
I truly am not seeking recognition. I have tears in my eyes writing this. For the same reasons as yesterday. I am looking at the cars going by outside. Wondering will some of them help people today. Hoping some will. Did someone see what I did, and decide to help someone. A kind of “pass it on” where Bill unlikely can?
Day after day I shout at my kids. I lose my patience. They drive me crazy. I love them to death. Squeeze them. Tickle them. Talk to and with them. Part of me raising them is to help them to be decent people. Forget the road rage. The texting. The arguments. Most of us have trouble doing (caring enough not to do) these things. Let’s not add ignoring others. How hard is it to take five minutes of your day to talk to Bill