I’m a firm believer that a central purpose if life is to make connections with others. Scratch that…to make POSITIVE connections with others. We make many of them, but so many of them are negative.
However, stop and think for a minute…and answer this question honestly:
“Do you connect with those people who have nothing to offer you?”
In that question, I mean, we so readily connect with people who have something we want; connections, money, sexual appeal….but what about those people who don’t readily have something material to offer us?
Here in Chicago, we have a lot of homeless people. I don’t know exact numbers, but a lot. Now, I’m not rolling in dough, but when I can, I try to give some change, or a dollar here and there. Over the years, as you take time, actually take time to stop and talk with some of these people, you can hear some amazing stories. Often depressing, often shocking, but very telling of that other side of society that many of us don’t see. How people fall through the cracks.
I’ll never forgot one night I started chatting with a homeless guy down in the Loop on Wabash, about 1 in the morning. He asked me what I do, and I mentioned that I had just gotten back from my deployment and was trying to figure out where I fit in.
He went into his pocket, and pulled out a military ID. Told me how after getting back from Iraq, his life basically fell apart from PTSD…and so on.
But recently, I had two interactions that reminded me of some things.
The first was on a bus stop. I was heading downtown, and waiting for the bus, sitting on a bench. An older gentleman, with a suitcase, obviously homeless, came over and sat next to me. He then pulled out a bottle of Maddog 20/20, and after taking a swig, offered me some. I declined, and then he asked me about the magazine I had at my side.
It was a Graciemag, a Jiu jitsu magazine. Something on the cover caught his eye, and I handed it to him. He flipped through the pages, and seemed genuinely interested in what he saw.
He then looked over to me and said, “You know who was a bad man?”
“Who?” I said, genuinely interested in what was to come.
“Bruce Lee! Did you know that when they filmed the Green Hornet, they had to slow down the film because he was too fast!”
I laughed. “Yeah, he was amazing for sure.”
“There’ll never be another one like him.”
A few nights ago, a woman asked me out for drinks. I said sure. I got ready to head out, but hadn’t had dinner, so I decided to stop and get something on the way. I happened to come across Arturo’s a 24 hour Mexican drunk hut. I parked, and was heading in, when a man stopped me.
“I hate to bother you man, but do you have a few dollars, so I can get some good. I’m out of work currently.”
I don’t carry cash usually, so I said, “I don’t have any cash, but I’m gonna get some food. Come on in with me.”
“Really?” He asked.
So I ordered some food for me, and he ordered what he wanted, and as we waited, we sat and talked.
He said his name was Casper. He’d been working as a painter and carpenter when his car was stolen, with his wallet and phone in it.
“I was paid in cash, so it really hurt, because I lost my rent money, and then I was replaced at work.”
He mentioned he’d been in the U.S. since 1987, born in Mexico.
” I learned English in Mexico, and then learned more here. I also have learned some polish, and I like learning that.”
“Polish?” I asked.
“Yeah, some of the guys I worked with were Polish, so they would teach me the language while we worked,” and he then exhibited some of his skills for me.
He then said something very interesting.
“Back in ’87 and the ’90’s, if you needed a job, you’d apply to a few, and boom, you could get one fast. It’s not like that anymore. You can, apply, and apply, and apply, and hear nothing.”
Wow…that says a lot right?
While at the time it didn’t ‘t occur to me, but I was having a shared moment with these gentlemen, exchanging thoughts and ideas…and I wonder how many people would never do that, simply because at first glance, they had nothing to offer, and even needed of us.
These moments reminded me to be thankful. I worry about so many things, but in reality, I have a roof over my head, food to put in my mouth, and people who care enough about me who would offer me either if I didn’t have them.
What have I to complain about?
And they reminded me to be humble, because in an instant, my situation could change, and I could be that person that people so readily will look past when I’m asking for a few bucks. Deep issues…deep thought…