If it were up to me, I would have never met him. Because I would have never been there.
But it wasn’t up to me, and I was there. Sitting in Sara’s car. Waiting for her to get done with her good deed of the day. Feeling like shit. Feeling like the whole world was against me. Whining and crying to myself like the pretentious little prick I had become.
Hatred was further fueled by my cynicism for the world around me. Pathetic humans lying on the streets outside of the shelter. Wrapped in anything that they could find to stay warm. Pleading, begging, starving, dying. When they looked at me I looked back. I was no longer a man in a 3 piece suit that avoided eye contact. No longer a man who ignored the situation. Now I was staring and I sure as shit was passing judgement. Any of them who went down my path before me, deserved everything that came to them. They deserved to rot just like they had been rotting.
I imagined myself lying there next to them. A day not so far away. People like Sara stopping by to pamper me with some old clothes as I stare up at all of God’s yuppies in their checkered suits and their fucking scarfs. The thought alone makes me laugh. A bum on the street who could out think and outperform every swinging dick that walked by.
The only difference being one simple flaw. One minor wiring detail in my physiology. One minor glitch in my programming code. I ran on alcohol the way America runs on sugar. Only 10 times worse.
With the drink, I was dying and self destructing. Without the drink, I felt dead and at a loss for self. In a flawed human like me, there is just no way to win. I read an article once from a CEO that talked about her fight to give up diet coke. These fucking people kill me. She was asking the world to acknowledge her war wounds from a battle that she’s never even seen. We, the chosen ones, not only fight the battle, we fight the war, and we never fucking leave it.
My imagination came back into focus as my eyes glazed over something unimaginable. Sitting up against the front wall of the shelter, he lifted his head out of his arms for only a second and then buried it again to avoid the cold of the wind. His legs were wrapped under a dirty blanket which helped disguise the awfulness. There was no one within 5 feet which made me question what I had just seen.
I thought of myself, for a few seconds, as a kid growing up. Sled riding this time of year with friends. Coming home to a mother who loved me, and a father who was good enough to keep a roof over my head and food on the table.
I didn’t know how old he was, but I knew he was far too young to be on the streets. Huddled up and trying not to freeze while praying that someone sticks a fucking quarter in his jar for a warm cup of soup.
I wasn’t in a mood or frankly a position to help others. Especially a child. But sometime we get out of our own way and just act under the grace and direction of God.
I sat up, I opened the door, I embraced the cold, and I took one faithful step forward. Followed by another. And another. And another. Until I was kneeling down right beside him. His head lifted again from his arms and he looked at me in a way that I will never forget. I looked back. A face of pleading and a face of despair. Which one was which I may never know.
“Come on.” I said. “I’m going to help you.”
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