UNapologetically Angela

THE HOMELESS MAN

Today I did something that I haven’t done in many years. I gave money to a beggar on the side of the road. He had dirty clothes and a small, beat-up cardboard sign, like most of them do. He moved slowly, a weight clearly looming over him.

At first sight, I was inclined to do the thing I have done for so long now – divert the eyes, look distracted, maybe even lock the car doors.

But this time, I didn’t. This time, I felt something.

So I scrambled to get my wallet before the light turned green, found a single dollar, and reached out the window to hand it to him.

I felt sorry for not being able to give him more than just a dollar. I even apologized to him. His reaction was nothing except grateful. Genuinely grateful. He seemed to be in shock that I had even bothered at all.

I have had encounters with the homeless, the beggars, the panhandlers… throughout most of my life. I did not always grow up in wealthy areas and I saw poverty first-hand pretty frequently. There are usually mixed reactions to these people when we are forced to encounter them, but one stands out as the most prominent among society. The most frequent. Most people feel a sense of delinquency among them and an insincerity that makes them feel unworthy of trust. So what do we do? We look away and keep driving.

But today was different. Today, I remembered something.

We don’t know the whole story. We think we know so much, but in truth, we don’t have a clue. Some people really are just going through tough times. Some people really just need some hope.

During my time in Washington, there were many places throughout Seattle and even the small town I lived in where most of the panhandlers were scammers. They weren’t homeless. It was fraud. They made more money doing that than some friends I had who worked minimum wage. It discouraged me.

During my time in Florida and parts of California, it was clear that these street walkers were addicted to drugs. Homeless by fault of their own. Not exactly on par with my aptitude for sympathy.

Yet, after seeing this particular homeless man today, I was reminded that some people just fall down. Actually, all people eventually fall, in one way or another. Sometimes they are good people. Sometimes they are bad people. But they are people. Every single one.

I think of my grandmother at times like these. I think of mental health and mental illness and what leads a person to a life on the streets. My grandmother was schizophrenic. I never met her, but I have heard stories of her struggle. She disappeared when my mom was barely 18 and was never seen or heard from again. The sad and terrible truth that haunts us all is the fact that if she is not dead, she may be one of those people you see on the side of the road, holding a sign. Or in an alley, talking to a wall. Doing something we don’t understand. Doing something that scares us because of it.

Mental health is fragile and powerful and fickle. I know the plight well. Sometimes we forget that it’s different for everyone. Sometimes we see through selfish or judgmental eyes. Sometimes it doesn’t always make sense.

But at all times, we must remember our blessings and be thankful for mercy shown.

This homeless man I saw did not appear to be on drugs or drunk. He did not appear to be faking his misfortune. He did not give a vibe of desperation, but of intrigue. And then there was the sign. His cardboard sign. Small. Tattered. Meaningful.

It did not say the usual “HOMELESS, NEED HELP” or “NEED MONEY FOR FOOD” or other such phrases. It said something better.

“Need Hope.”

All you need is hope.

I have recently been battling some internal issues that haven’t resurfaced in several years. The truth is, I struggle with bipolar disorder. It has been generally manageable and under control for a long time now, but is the only constant in life is change and recent times have brought upon newfound external struggles, awakening my internal battles. Ultimately, however, I feel that energy expelled is energy gained, in one form or another. Instead of projecting bad energy and absorbing bad energy, it is important to recognize the influence of positivity, even in the smallest manner. Even in the form of a single dollar

I wish I could have done more for that man, and maybe one day I will see him again, but today he inspired me to be good again, despite the daunting thoughts and antagonistic encounters we inevitably face. I will not soon forget that.

Las Vegas is a great city, but the city can turn you hard. It can make you mean. It can break you. Anything can though, if you let it.

Seeing him sparked a change in perspective that I needed. I don’t know why he was so impactful, or if it was just fate in that moment and with that cardboard sign. Life moves in waves and today I am just rising with the tide.

Spread the good vibes, friends.

You never know who’s life you may be silently saving.

Remember –Today is beautiful and tomorrow can be better.

-Your Friend

Angela

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