The Man on the Corner

Today, I saw something I never thought I would see where I live. It’s not that I have lead a sheltered life. It’s just that I live in the suburbs, not in a major city, and didn’t expect to see this here.

A man was standing at the corner of a small local strip mall, a red gym bag just behind him on the ground. He was dressed in Dockers, a white shirt, and a dark, heavier jacket (not quite a winter coat), which he had left unzipped. That was what first got my attention, as it was early morning and a brisk 34 degrees outside. But then I noticed he was eating from a Styrofoam take-out container, and the food wasn’t steaming.

My first thought was where he could have gotten take-out food at this time of the morning, as there aren’t any restaurants near there that serve breakfast, other than a doughnut shop, and they don’t use those containers. The Chinese place next door uses those, but they were closed…

And then it hit me. No steam. The food was cold.

It was right then that the man looked around nervously to see if anyone was watching, and moved towards the trash can. Instead of just tossing in the container like you or I would, he placed it in by reaching armpit deep into the can, and then began rummaging. The last I saw, as I entered the store, was him pulling something else out and inspecting it.

When I came back out, I intended to buy him something more substantial and healthy that trashcan fair. However, he was already gone.

At a glance, this was not a homeless person living on the street. I am pretty sure that if you had walked past him, you would not have given him a second glance. Not yet. However, he is a prime example of how slippery that slope really is. What had occurred in his life to put him at the point he already was at, and how much longer until he was indistinguishable from the other denizens of the street we walk by daily, pretending they don’t exist?

Government shouldn’t give free handouts, I’ve heard repeatedly. To a degree, I would agree. However, charity starts at home. A child learns how to care for others from its parents and, likewise, citizens follow the example set by their leaders. If it is okay for our government to cut programs and not care for the unfortunate, then why should we?

Let’s stop making the care of others a political weapon, stop being greedy, and start following the truest tenets of all religions: treat others with the same care you would want to be treated with. If we did that, the human race would be so much better.