On my subway ride home from school yesterday, I, by scent, became aware that there was suddenly a homeless person introduced on the commute. Naturally, like any savvy sort-of-New-Yorker, I lifted my head and followed my nose in an effort to identify who and how close this person was. I found him! And, as is one’s luck at times, he was seated across the door aisle from me. Sigh. I had nothing better to do, so I paid attention – I mean, my nose was already fully involved, so why not engage the rest…
I watched this man, who by the way, was not typically homeless-dressed, lounge (as is their way; because truthfully, everyone gives them quite the wide berth, so why not?) across the three seats that typify that grouping on the ‘A’ and proceed to peruse the remnants of a bag of leftovers that he was either given or had appropriated. In the take-out container there were a few limp ketchup’d fries and a somewhat pitiful-looking morsel of chicken (yes; I paid that close attention). As I watched and smelled this man, naturally my mind started to think about and flirt with today’s post.
In my head I began to formulate from which angle I would begin to address the state of a nation that allows for so many of its citizens to become homeless. I did a mental tally of the number of men and women we may not always see, but made aware of their presence because of a smell, on a daily basis. I started on my commute to draft the rant I would indulge in that could best transmit my ire and disgust that in a nation of such abundance and wealth, so many of its citizens are living on the streets, in subway cars and foraging for food amongst the discards of others.
I mentally composed that paragraph or two, then I went on to think about the fact that for so many, in so many areas of life, it seems as if we are more interested in attending to the ills and ailments of others as opposed to what threatens and afflicts those in our backyards. This train (no pun intended) of thought begged me to want to address the phenomenon which seems to give credence to the thinking that many are more interested in public heroism than altruism.
So, as I sat, watched and smelled this man, my eyes began to tear from more than the sting that truly pungent scents can illicit; I began to feel guilty. “Guilty” not because I had (as far as I know) directly contributed to his demise; but certainly because I am also not directly contributing to his well-being. Because, like so many, as I sat on the train, the initial fascination of watching so closely began to be usurped by the hope that he would get off at the next stop.
Let’s address this: so I decided that, as is my practice, I will need to bring this to you all; we all need to become more aware, vocal and participatory with regard to this travesty. I told myself that this morning I will highlight how unfair, inhumane and unpatriotic allowing our citizens to live… no, excuse me… to exist like this is! I figured it was my responsibility to let you know that I do notice and am absolutely disheartened by it! Indeed! This, as with all other infractions against humanity, must stop!
But while all that is indeed very true, what is also so, is this: after the homeless man looked into the carton of the leftover offered or appropriated food, he flung the carton away in utter disgust! So, the afore-mentioned aside, the moral of this here story is this: forget that other feel-good clichéd bullshit you’ve been taught and spouting; here is the unsanitized truth – One man’s trash is STILL another man’s trash… Ha-ha.