In Atwater Village, Friday morning
February 10, 2013 § Leave a comment
I came across this bundled figure as I finished my walk through Atwater Village Friday morning. He lay at the far end of the parking lot where I had left my car.
The heavy sky had just begun to spit rain. I snapped the photo and walked on, ready to drive home. Then, I paused.
What was my responsibility to this man, out there in the rain? We’re so used to people living their lives in public spaces. “At least I notice,” I congratulate myself now and again for not turning away. Or not believing the homeless want to live as they do. For volunteering at a cold weather shelter. For buying panhandlers food.
All very well, but that still left a man in the rain.
I sighed and fished a five dollar bill out of my wallet. That was more than I usually hand out; I suspect the largesse was as much balm for my distress as for his.
I drove to the spot where the man lay, approached, and, in my well-mannered way, softly said, “Excuse me.”
He didn’t stir. And I didn’t want to wake him; the rain would do that soon enough.
Lying on the ground beside him in a plastic sheet protector was a sign written in pencil: “I am homeless.” I tucked the five inside the plastic and left.
Maybe it was still there when he woke, maybe it wasn’t.
At times like these, I think of the old story about a woman faulted for honoring a noted teacher with an extravagant gift. Better the money be used for the poor, onlookers carp. But the teacher silenced critics, saying, “She did what lay within her power to do.”
Whatever we do on occasions such as these is never enough and often not even the best thing. But: we do what we can, one five dollar bill at a time.