Thursday, September 2, 2010

Homeless in Columbus

On Tuesday, I filed my article earlier than usual, so I went downstairs to the bank and then CVS for batteries for my tape recorder. On the way back, I stopped by a street vendor selling the latest issue of "Street Speech," the newspaper of and for Columbus's homeless. I try to buy it every 2 weeks it comes out to help. It certainly isn't for the reading material.

I've become friends with one homeless guy near my office because I say hi to him, ask him how he's doing, etc. Most people just walk by. My friend Lissa used to tell me not to say 'hi' to people all the time, but there's nothing wrong with acknowledging a fellow being. Obviously, don't be obnoxious about it, but I think if someone reaches out to you, it's polite to return the greeting.

My friend wasn't around that day however, so when I saw another man selling the paper, I gave him my dollar and asked him how his day was going.

"Just fine," he said, and introduced himself, extending his hand. I smiled and accepted it, was pleased that he had a solid handshake, and introduced myself.

"I've got a poem on page 6," he said. "You should read it."

"I sure will," I said, wished him a good day, and went back to the office.

I don't know what kind of poem I was expecting. He's most-likely 40 years old, black, male, homeless and very gracious. I keep re-reading it. I don't know why it chills me so, but I think it is such a heart-breaking poem.

Being homeless is a difficult cross to bear. It can carry a lot of personal baggage. I always wonder how people end up homeless, why, and where their family and friends are. Last summer in D.C., a priest told a story during a homily about volunteering at a homeless shelter and having the homeless man he was helping give a bath tell him he wasn't loving him enough. The priest realized it was true and the Holy Spirit filled his heart with compassion. He washed the man and loved him. He went back to the head priest saying he had met Christ that day! And he was so dirty!

Homeless people are people too. It's not enough to give them charity if you're not going to act charitable towards them. I can't quite tell you how their eyes light up when they are treated like an equal, be it as small as saying hello, or the mutual respectful attitude. Most of the time I don't have any cash on me, but I still make eye contact and say hello. I watch a lot of people ignore them. That bothers me. People want a lot of change in the world and a lot of problems fixed, but I don't know if they don't have the manners to truly do it.

This kind of interaction with people goes beyond homeless people. I had a person tell me recently that I should watch how a person treats others, not me. It is through other relationships and observations that the person's true nature will emerge. Recent events brought me to Genesis 50:20- "Even though you meant harm to me, God meant it for good, to achieve his present end, the survival of many people."

Today's poem of the week is by the homeless man I bought a paper from:

"Why Do The Good Die Young"
by Mark Hudson

At the age of 2 why did he die young, and the very next day he saw no sun.
Why, why do I wonder but can't realize, why my son "Lil Mark" won't open his eyes.
Lord, please let me know, please let me know, why did my just have to go???
At an age so young you'd never expect, why a kid so innocent had a sudden death.
I try to understand it every single day, why did the good Lord take you away?
Well one day we'll meet up in the sky, then my beloved son you can tell me WHY
-why did you die so young???

Have a wonderful Labor Day weekend! And count your blessings.


  1. Great post, Julie! Seeing homeless people is always so heartbreaking for me, especially when they come on the subway and give their speech and everyone just looks the other way.

    There's a homeless man that lives on my street -- George -- and everyone just kind of adopted him. We say hi. Once a man was following our friend home, being creepy, and George ran him off! It's a funny little relationship. He sweeps the street, but then pees on it. We just say, "Okay, George" and my sister offers him a cigarette. I think he's happy enough. At least, he doesn't show any desire to change. 16th street is his home. He's very protective of it, and us :)

  2. I know this man. He likes to break into houses and attack people.