Wednesday, December 8, 2010

What is his Story? What was his life 20 years ago?

I often ask myself these questions when I see people like this gentlemen. He obviously has a story and something to say. What is it? Have anyone of us ever stopped to ask? I want to ask at times, but am afraid of what I going to hear. I am afraid that I am going to hear how he was once, what we would consider, a productive citizen and fell on bad luck, because of mental illness, physical illness, or merely lost of income, and even worst, lost of hope. Then there is another fear and that is that he would be angry and say or do something to me that would hurt my feelings or worst hurt my person. I do know that the latter is not what I would usually get, and it is not the greatest fear. We don't want to ask because we don't want to care, so as not to feel even more helpless in this massive problem called "Homelessness" than we feel already. So at most we give them money, feed them, talk to them for awhile, or just give them a smile and go on with our lives. I know I often feel very bad when faced with these situations because I know that I am not but a heart beat away from being in his shoes. All of these fears are ways we justify doing nothing, and I must admit that I am included in this bunch. I wish that I was not but I am. How do I move away from the excuses and move toward some sort of action. As I was sitting outside of California Pizza Kitchen eating with my daughter, this gentleman passed by our outside table and looked right at me, that is when I noticed that his left eye was cloudy, but he was looking right at me. I smiled at him and said hello, and he greeted me in such respectful and warm way. At that moment my thoughts of pity turned into respect. Respect for him as a man, as my brother, that has endured something heavy in his life. What could that be? This reminds me of my most recent visit to Wal-Mart a few days later and the cashier was a mature gentleman. The total of my bill was $19.68, and without any real thought, I blurted out, "that was a good year", like I would know, because I was only seven years old. The cashier said "not for me", and I asked him why not, and he said, "I was in Vietnam." I immediately felt terrible for making the comment, but I came back with, "Thank God that you lived to tell about it." He may not feel that way either, because I have no idea what he has suffered and may still suffer from being in that war. This may not have effected me as much before, but now that I am living through the times of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and am mature enough to understand the pain and politics involved, I see things a bit different. When I had this short exchange with the Wal-Mart cashier, the gentleman in the above photos came to mind, because I don't know his story and I do know that there are a great deal of Vietnam veterans living on the streets here in Los Angeles. How do you feel when you are faced with the same things? What do you do? What would you like to do?

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