Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Suspended Coffee

Over the course of my adult life, I have lived in the city of Chicago for many years and currently do. It is cold here and, sadly, with the cold brings the issue of our homeless increasingly to the forefront of my mind. It is not that I am seeing them more; actually I am seeing them far less than in warmer months. I pass by people every single day cold and hungry with cups in their oftentimes gloveless hands. Most politely ask for any spare change. Usually I don't have any, but they thank me for checking anyway.

Yesterday, I saw him before he saw me. He was perched in a poplar spot on a sidewalk curb in front of the corner Chase Bank.

With both my hands clutching two heavy grocery bags with not a penny in my coat pocket, I explained that I had no change and offered him a banana instead. He asked if I could come back later with change; he really needed money. I said I didn’t think so, but I had these bananas. He replied, “Okay, I’ll take the banana. How about two?” I gave him the bunch and he thanked me.

Last winter, there was a string of nights colder than a witches’s XXX. The moisture of my breath almost froze instantly as I exhaled.

An old woman, extremely small in stature even though wrapped in a full length, puffy coat, pulled a heaping cart down the same crowded theater district I was also passing though with what I assumed were her every belonging. 

I had gloves. She did not. I asked if she wanted mine. 

She didn't say yes or no.

As soon as she let go of her cart to reach for my gloves, the cart tipped over dumping half of what she owned onto the bustling sidewalk. She started screaming at me. I didn’t understand what she was saying. I knew I had agitated her. Asking if I could help only made her scream louder. I didn’t know what do and didn’t want to upset her further. I don’t know if she was embarrassed. I thought maybe she was mentally unstable. In any case, I did the only thing a lame person (that’s me) could think of, and that was to lay the gloves in front of her.

There are so many instances like this in a large metropolitan area. 

The first I told you because it happened yesterday. The second because I am still haunted by the woman who I have actually seen around here and there since.

Sometimes I don’t know what to do. Sometimes I feel stupid continuing to try. Sometimes I am at a loss. My efforts seem lame. Like all the time. But my feelings or discomfort are not what matters or going to make me stop. I am old enough to know that most things in this world, in life, even in my own, are not about me. 

I do what I can. I smile a lot. I suspend coffee.

Somehow, it is just not good enough.

No comments: