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Do I hear him now?

I noticed him squatting by the entryway of the library.

I noticed his filthy clothes and his dirt-crusted skin.

I noticed the smell that tells me he hasn’t seen the wet side of a bar of soap in a very long time.

I noticed him noticing us…my children with their school uniforms and shiny smiles…the brightness of their youth and the warmth of their vitality.

I noticed his arm reach up as we drew closer.

I wondered if he would ask, if his hand would reach out.

I didn’t know what my answer would be.

Would I dig in my pocket?

Would I pretend I don’t see?

What message will my kids hear in my actions?

His arm reached further up.

His hand pushed the handicapped button and opened the door for us to enter.

He asked for nothing.

I mumbled a thank you, he nodded in return.

As I passed him, I looked down and noticed a cord stretching from his body.

Extending to a power outlet.

Charging his cell phone.

A cell phone?

He has a cell phone?

Who does he call?

Who waits to hear from him?

I wonder if he tells them about the people who look at him without making eye contact.

The ones like me.

12 Comments on “Do I hear him now?”

  1. #1 Double Agent Girl
    on Sep 23rd, 2008 at 10:47 pm

    Oh dear. We are all guilty of this at some point in our lives. Human kindness. Human kindness.
    Big Canadian Hugs.

    Double Agent Girls last blog post..Arrest

  2. #2 Ashley
    on Sep 24th, 2008 at 11:15 am

    This baffles me. I work for a church, and every week numerous people stop by needing assistance. I have NO problem with it…Really. There are a few who abuse the system, that make it horrible for everyone else who really needs assistance, and that always pisses me off. Once I had this lady tell me, “Just do what Jesus would do.” Really? Jesus would probably smite you in the head with a Bible and tell you to get up off it and do something productive. She said this only after 30 minutes of “telling me what I could do about this and that”. On top of it all, she, and the lady she brought with her, were SMOKING!!!!!!! What in the piss? Did you actually bum an entire pack of those from some cheritable person? DRIVES ME CRAZY. AHHHHHHH!!!!! (Insert very ugly smooshed up face here). Sorry ’bout that rant. 🙂

    Ashleys last blog post..Half-eaten Shoes

  3. #3 Jen W
    on Sep 24th, 2008 at 3:51 pm

    Wow- it does make you wonder. If he has someone to call with that cell phone, I hope they help him out.

  4. #4 Jessica
    on Sep 24th, 2008 at 4:18 pm

    Maybe a family member pays for him to have a cell phone just so he can contact them and let them know he is ok. Sometimes you just can’t let family members into your home but you still want to know how they are.

  5. #5 Sarah Clapp
    on Sep 24th, 2008 at 5:03 pm

    My favorite story is my friend who saw a homeless guy and his dog, so she went and bought the dog a bag of IAMS (which is a higher end dog food) you’d think the guy would be greatful, but they guy actually told her that Science Diet was better for the dog. Then she proceeded to get into an argument about which was better, IAMS or Science Diet.

    Sarah Clapps last blog post..Happy Birthday Lysee (and Seth)

  6. #6 Rick @ Tiny Prints
    on Sep 24th, 2008 at 5:33 pm

    We’ve all been there, conditioned to expect a confrontation or awkward moment.

    Jessica is probably correct but he may need a valid phone number to continue receiving financial assistance of some sort.

    Funny story Sarah.

  7. #7 Greg
    on Sep 24th, 2008 at 5:57 pm

    He may use the phone to call someone (a handler ?) to bring him food or pick him up at the end of his “shift.” The ‘grubby’ guy or girl gets some of the money and the handler gets some of it too. Imagine if you had a staff of employees collecting – and you got a taste of all that “charity.” Some roadways around here are very busy traffic corridors where thousands of cars a day are driving by these people. If only one out of ten people give him a dollar (or more) we are talking hundreds of dollars a day. Imagine how easy it would be for a “handler” to befriend and manipulate a homeless or mentally ill person into giving them a share of their money (that person is my friend, he gave me a cell phone). Or, I’ll give you a job, your job is to stand here and take money. I will pay you 20 dollars and bring you food too, you just give me the wad of money. And of course there are some folks that for mercenary motives go out and beg because they can get a pocket full of bills. I may supplement my retirement income by wearing a sign in front that says, “Give to charity,” and on the back says, “I know a stripper named Charity.”

  8. #8 maggie, dammit
    on Sep 24th, 2008 at 8:47 pm


    I remember seeing a band of beggars once, kids who’d been at it all day, climb into a BMW at the end of the night.

    Who’s to say what any of it means? Things can be astonishingly complicated.

    maggie, dammits last blog post..HEADRUSH

  9. #9 chris
    on Sep 24th, 2008 at 8:54 pm

    There are often many layers to these situations. Discomfort occurs for valid reasons, conviction sometimes follows, sometimes it’s peace around the “avoidance strategy”. Don’t be so hard on yourself.

    Very thought provoking post.

    chriss last blog post..I think I might be good…

  10. #10 Heather
    on Sep 24th, 2008 at 9:08 pm

    Amazing hu! I read somewhere…don’t remember where or when…so don’t get mad. But, some people who “pretend” to be bums, actually make a good living. And leave their spot, walk to their nice car, go home to their nice home and cook dinner for their family like it was a job. I have actually noticed this…as I have moved recently. On one of the highway exits that I always use to take was the same guy. Then one day he wasn’t there anymore. I always gave him money, or smokes, or even bottled water. Then after I moved across town, I saw this same guy at a different highway exit. I think that he might be one of these people that “this is their living” kind of guys. Who knows. But, it’s kind of weird.

    Heathers last blog post..dragon “expert”

  11. #11 PAPA
    on Sep 25th, 2008 at 12:34 am

    I’M so lame when it comes to these folk, i’m the one who can’t look THEM in the eye. I feel guilty. Guilty of what? Guilty that they are supposably without and I have. It’s the same when I see a custodian head into a restroom to clean it. I wish people didn’t have to do these kind of jobs.

    PAPAs last blog post..Nikki has a Bad Day (Again)

  12. #12 Brittany
    on Sep 25th, 2008 at 9:13 am

    I can’t look them in the eye either. I feel like such a horrible person.