Overheard on the Street

all-peopleThe other day I was walking down Central Avenue. As I walked, two homeless men passed me on the left. I heard a bit of their conversation as they passed me by.

It was powerful.

I first heard one of the men say, “… I lost everything.”

“People automatically think if you are living out here that you’re a piece of shit. Do you think I like living this way? Wandering from place to place? Killing time?

I lost everything.

But I’m nearly caught up. Soon I’ll get a room or an apartment …”

They kept walking straight, and I made my turn.

I wanted so badly to stop them and tell them not everyone thinks that. That some of us actually read the news and know why a lot of folks are homeless. That some of us don’t even care why they are homeless, but instead care they are human beings.

I can’t always give money to the folks on the street, but I always try to be kind. I always wish them well and better fortune. If someone is panhandling aggressively, I do lay down boundaries, but I try to do it in a respectful way.

For those who don’t, I think they are telling themselves a story that ends with “that could never happen to me.” He’s homeless because he’s a lazy piece of shit, and I’m not so that will never happen to me.

I wish I had reached out to those two men. I didn’t want to interrupt their space. But maybe one person with a little bit better fortune reaching out would have been a beacon in a bleak situation. Maybe it would be a reminder that there’s some good in the world. 

I hope those men are able to turn their lives around. I hope more people show generosity and kindness to them and other folks in their situations.

And I hope I have the courage to speak up the next time I hear a stranger saying they feel like the world views them as a piece of shit.

It’s not us versus them, except maybe us versus the corporations no matter what Citizens United says. It’s only us. Knee deep in it together. Living life the best we can. We get no further by tearing anyone else down. We only get further by building each other up.

We need to start building our world and the people in it instead of tearing it down.

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