“You think you know me.”
A note of anguish in his voice made me turn back.
I searched his faded, wrinkled face for signs of someone I might have known. His coat, though dirty and torn, had been expensive once.
Bitter eyes followed my gaze. “You don’t know me. But this is where you think I’ll tell you my hard luck story, make you feel all charitable.”
He painfully raised his frail bones, spat at my feet and showed me his back. “You can kiss my ass.”
The hitch in his voice broke me. “Maybe I could buy you lunch?”
I’ve always been bothered by the way we, as a society, dehumanize the homeless. Every person out there is a human being with a story, a history. They don’t owe us those stories; they don’t owe us their pain.
As a former therapist I cared for many broken people. They had safety nets. The homeless are often broken people who haven’t been so lucky. Sometimes they have mental illness and have fallen through the cracks.
Whatever their stories, whatever has brought them to the street, let’s not forget they are someone’s child, someone’s sister or brother. They are people. Had our lives been different, they could have been us.