I want to share this story with you. When I think about how this experience went, it’s hard for me to wrap my head around what actually happened.
While walking down the street I hear this noise coming out of a homeless man’s mouth that I couldn’t possibly replicate through words on a page or come close to in my own voice. It was the sound of a loud, near obnoxious laugh, cackle and scream.
Now the noise is extended, as soon as it began I turn my head, as the stranger isn’t far from me. I catch his gaze or maybe he catches mine as soon as the noise starts. It seems to go on for minutes which is likely only a few seconds. I hold my look, which is almost surprising to the man, so he holds his.
As soon as this noise stops, he’s looking at me and I’m looking at him, without thinking, maybe simply reacting I say ‘how you doin?’, his response came without thought as mine did. He responded,’fine, how are you?’, in the most normal tone that could have possibly been relayed back, from a business man to an old friend.
Course my expectations could have been skewed given the noise that was just coming out of his mouth.
I nodded as I continued to look at what I thought was not only a stranger but a strange man. For an instant he looked at me as well. We both almost shook our heads as we carried on in now the opposite direction.
From the corner of my eye, I could see him stop, look back at me as I could almost feel him thinking.
Of course that got me thinking. I’ve seen the man before in this area, never had any type of encounter with him before, although I know he’s homeless because of having seen him a number of times usually in the same ripped, tattered and dirty clothing (even taking food offered to him at times).
What got me was that instant of normalness, it was like we both knew in at least that moment right there, we were in the same situation in life. He was there, I was there, just regular people going to wherever we were going.
As I continued to look at him, as he made that noise, I feel that he almost expected me to turn away, sneer or roll my eyes like many have and did. When I didn’t, to his surprise I asked a regular everyday question that he responded to, like a regular every day person (which we both were in that moment).
So I thought to myself, which is likely incomprehensible for someone like you and I, the stress a homeless mind would need to handle on a daily basis. Most of us couldn’t fathom the thought of spending the night on the streets, the thought of not having a warm place to rest our bodies and minds at the end of the day. We likely couldn’t wrap our head around what it’s like to wonder when our next meal will be or where it will come from; what it’s like not to have many friends, family or a warm hug.
What I’m getting at here is, maybe this man couldn’t either. Maybe many homeless people aren’t able to. Think about the perception so many have as they pass a homeless person on the street.
Wouldn’t a person have to convince themselves that there was something wrong with them? Wouldn’t they have to treat themselves as less than? Would they make up an odd type of sounds to keep people away, to make others think there is something mentally wrong with them? And how long would you have to pretend in such a way before you start to believe yourself?
I think we all have moments of ‘craziness’ just like that individual had a moment of ‘normalness’, whatever normal is. Whatever that moment was I shared with that stranger, it’s still on my mind, I still think about that puzzled look on his face, the face that could have said ‘does he know?’.
The next time you’re having a bad day, the next time you take your anger out on someone else, think about the stressful day they’ve had, think about the toxic environment they may not be able to detox from, they may not be able to handle.
Think about that single moment when we were both in the same situation, where everything was perfectly fine, where two strangers found something entirely normal in a crazy world.
And think about the stress that would put on your mind and body by having absolutely nothing, other than a certain craziness to keep people away….