Things That Are Bigger Than Me

20 Mar

I used to work on the corner of 6th and Market.  I didn’t feel safe going to work each day, watching the addicted, the homeless, the legless and broken shuffle by each day.  I say shuffle because no one strode.  They sped by in their motorized chairs, or hurried along screaming at their inner demons or slowly walked by staring straight at the ground.

One day I saw a frail man on spindly legs struggle to bend forward and pick up a shiny five cent coin off the ground.  His legs shook the whole way down.  With immense effort he forced his hand to grasp the nickel.  It took three attempts and I just stood there.

I wanted to wrap him in a blanket and tell him that it was going to be ok; that he was the chosen one, the one I was going to save.  I would feed him, counsel him, and do whatever it took so he would never have to be so thin and desperate.  I stared at the ground as I passed him by.

Our office was there because it was an area of the city that once possessed the hope of rehabilitation.  Then certain contracts fell through, certain things didn’t happen and yet all the papers had already been signed.

Each day for months I faced all the things that I did not do and still haven’t done, feeling overwhelmed and angry at my own repulsion.  Then one day a man walked by and casually spit directly into my face.  It was incredibly shocking, so shocking that I could not stop laughing.  I then understood how people and society can become heartless over such heartbreak.

In each city the homeless dwell, they sleep in doorways, in cardboard boxes and on park benches.  Discarded and labeled they are left to their own devices and those are few.

The people who devote their lives to this problem are my heroes.  To face the dirty, ill bodies, to stand for hours cook and serve mass meals, to do the maintenance that keeps the shelters open can be a thankless and unrewarding task.   There’s little public recognition, minimal pay and even those that benefit are often never saved, for as one woman said, “everyone is there for a reason.”

Mentally ill, alcoholic, deeply sad no one would chose to drag their body along with a cane, while others stare in disgust.

I don’t know if answers can be found.  I know I believe, as I’ve stated before, that life is a marriage of the beautiful and the ugly, and I wonder if there always must be ugly to maintain the frail balance that lets life go on.

Now we’ve moved into a new neighborhood.  One where I feel safe but more caught up in the small problems of my life.  At 6th and Market it’s easy to remember what to be grateful for.

Twitter is moving in near where we once were and is flittering hope.  However, is hope getting rid of all those people that are too painful to see because they remind us of the underbelly of life?  Is hope taking one person off the street or believing no matter what everyone can be saved?


3 Responses to “Things That Are Bigger Than Me”

  1. barbara March 21, 2012 at 1:08 pm #

    poverty and despair can happen to anyone at any time. be grateful for what we have .

  2. thepantha March 21, 2012 at 2:57 pm #


  3. howard rubenstein March 21, 2012 at 5:45 pm #

    Life is a very hard lesson. By no meansis everything right or fair. Thet’re are many that are very happy to keep it that way and it has always been like that. We must know history to not make the same mistakes. But as humans, it seems it seems we are just too greedy to learn.

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