I was walking down the street and made eye contact with a homeless man. Out of sheer reaction I say, how are you doing? He said fine thank you, how are you? I was a bit taken back. First of all, I rarely get eye contact with homeless people, and secondly from experience I usually only get a grunt if I say any type of hello at all.
I was also surprised how well-spoken this man was. I responded to him and found myself quite comfortable talking with a perfect stranger. He looked clean for someone that was likely living on the streets, he spoke well like he had a good upbringing and had some type of parent figure correcting any grammatical mistakes, maybe even a school teacher as a parent.
What struck me the most was the sparkle in his eye. His eyes looked brighter than those I usually look into. They didn’t look worn or aged even though he must have been 20 or 30 years older than I.
He didn’t look stressed out, he didn’t even have pain in his eyes. If you look closely people’s eyes will tell you everything you want to know about them.
We carried on with a pleasant conversation, and he said to me, ‘things aren’t always as they seem’. I said, what do you mean? We got into why he was on the streets. He said this is my decision, we all make our own choices in our lives and each choice determines who we are, where we go and what we do.
I said, did you lose your home, did you lose your job, your family maybe?
He said, I used to have a high paying job in a corporate office. I worked long hours, made lots of money, but never had time for my family. I was stressed out, angry at life and never enjoyed the little things; so I gave all that up.
I said, what do you mean? He said, I wake up when I want, I don’t have credit card bills, I don’t pay interest, I don’t have a loan for a house, I don’t have to answer a cell phone or have my day controlled by one because I don’t have one. He went on, I don’t have to be anywhere I don’t want to be, I wake up when I want, where I want and am able to enjoy the little things in life.
I said what about your family? He said I visit them when I like, I call them on the phone, I knock on their door if I’m in their neighborhood and I send them letters all the time.
I said, don’t you get hungry living on the streets? He said, I eat 3 times a day in various shelters, the people are wonderful, I volunteer my time so I’m not always taking and I even make crafts with my own two hands for some extra money.
For the first time in my life I’m happy. I know what it’s like to be able to enjoy a hot meal, to make a real friend, to sleep in a warm place and to be able to appreciate a sunrise and a sunset.
The man gathered his things as it looked like he was getting up to leave. He put a gentle hand on my shoulder as he got up and said, things aren’t always as they seem my friend.
He then sauntered away almost gliding in a comfortable, confident manner with a smile on his face.