I met a homeless man asking for money on the corner of Garfield and Front, so I stopped to give him money, but just as I was about to walk away, I thought better of it.  

“Where will you sleep tonight?” I asked him.  He laughed, but not in the joyful way you’d like to hear someone laugh.  It was a laugh only half lulled by cynicism, “Wherever I can find a place.”  He gestured around him.  

We talked for a while about his circumstances.  His belongings were stolen recently and though his wallet was empty, his photo ID is still missing.  He said the ‘boys in blue’ found the rest of his stuff, but never found his wallet.  I don’t have any ID, he reiterated sadly, but then he said, “My name is Donald.”  And I said, “I’m Sam,” extending my hand out to greet him properly.  He took my hand and kissed it lightly and said thank-you.  He wasn’t thanking me for the money, but for stopping and listening.  

“I like to know there’s still good in people,” said Donald.  And for a moment we watched the cars pass the hat he extended toward them for spare change.  “They don’t mean it,” I said.  “They want to help,” I added, hoping to cheer him a little.  What good are words in that instance? 

“My name is Donald,” he had said, as if to remind himself of his own identity.  “I’ve fallen on hard times,” he explained.  Never once did I feel sorry for him; his dignity, despite the grim circumstances, was still very much in tact.  Had I given him the money and walked away, I might have eroded some of that dignity, but to stand and converse was the gift I wanted to give.  To remind him he is still more than a man standing alone on some street-corner.  To remind him he is more than the ID stolen by happenstance.

He is Donald, he is on our streets right now, he is in need of help from each one of us and more than a financial need, he will thrive, as we all do, on a small amount of compassion.  

I said goodbye to Donald holding firm to the hope he would find a safe place to sleep that night, but knowing it was likely he would sleep outside somewhere in the tall shadows formed by buildings left vacant at night.  And it seemed so unfair and outrageous than anyone could be so alone.  

There is always something we can do, but to pass and assume the best, we have failed him.  To stop, and to talk, and to help; we have have not only one man, but saved ourselves.

Advertisements