Where does time go? The age old question...but a year since my last blog post still seems remarkable and something of a shame. It just feels that I haven't had the time to write even simple musings on every day life.
Until today gave me 'the shame on me' impetus.
It was not a smooth afternoon. Missed connections. Missing loved ones. Missing buses. I needed to just let go and have a simple pleasure...and avoid filing receipts or cleaning my apartment and just hop a train to spontaneously have dinner with my BFF in NJ. I scanned the open seats left on the subway and made a strategic choice to sit a little closer to a woman reading her book and a little farther from the questionably dressed man with a somewhat rank odor who, thankfully, seemed preoccupied with chatting up the unlucky woman on his left. I mentally thanked heaven for her keeping his attention off me so I could burrow into Angry Birds unpestered.
But, at the next stop, as the car filled up, a woman holding a baby got on, and a man nearest her got up to offer his seat. She demurred, but was clearly unused to riding NYC rails, and a couple of us were poised to spring to action to grab her elbow...or the baby, as she wobbled. My homeless-looking neighbor called out to her to go ahead and take that open seat and she sheepishly did.
Then my somewhat shabby seat neighbor turned and looked straight at me with amazing clear blue eyes and said, 'I just love kids.'
I, with just a second of trepidation, knowing a response he would mean engaging in some unsolicited conversation, decided to be in the moment and dive in. "Do you have any kids?" I asked. "No," he said, "but I have nieces and nephews that I love."
"Me too," I said.
I realized then he was he was anything but offensive and I was chagrined. He was pretty decently clothed, I was relieved to notice, on a cold day. His nails were black, and his beard may have had some crumbs parked in it, but he had a hat and earmuffs, and a warm looking, if dirty, parka and sturdy boots.
Over the next three subway stops, we kept chatting. He explained that he appreciates kids because they are so open, while so many adults see him and automatically recoil, even with fear. "I'm just a panhandler," he said, "and I'll just be sitting there, shaking my cup a little and I see women clutch their purses tighter and practically run. I mean, if I'm asking I'm not taking. But if I'm taking I'm not asking.'
Meaning, he is not taking without asking, like a thief does. He's just politely asking for help.
I asked him if he is judgmental about how much people give, because things have been written about how people are judgmental of some panhandlers: we'll scrutinize them and in an instant, decide if or how much they will give, based on things like even how 'worthy' -- aka needy -- the person appears. He said "even if a guy in $150 boots gives me a penny I'm as grateful for that as a dollar, and always say thank you."
I asked his name. "Brett," he said. "Are you in need of some cash now, Brett?" "Always" he said, and I gave him a little and he said thanks. I asked if he was hungry. He said he gets so much food, which he's always grateful for, that sometimes he has to find a homeless person to give some to.
Then his blue eyes lit up when he described how someone recently gave him a coupon book for $10 a month for a YEAR at Steak 'N Shake. He goes in, he said, gets a burger, fries and a shake. I could just envision him loving every minute of that monthly treat, totally in the moment, savoring every bite...and I only hoped the people working there and serving him withhold judgement better than I had at first.
Like the Picture the Homeless site says, "Don't talk about us; Talk WITH us."
Thank you, Brett.