Three day weekends can symbolize to me one of two things — either a long-planned road trip to a new destination, or a million checkmarks on a neglected to-do list. There is no in-between, and this morning I woke up, ready for the latter. I had a million things on my list to get done before heading out with friends to usher in the New Year, and opened my eyes already thinking of the tasks. Things didn’t go exactly as planned, and I was already running late for getting all of my errands accomplished before businesses closed for the holidays. I was literally running around the house leaving messes in my wake, focus unwavering from the “get things done” mentality.
After preparations had been made, I rushed out back to the car and quickly pulled out of the garage. As I pulled into the alley, I was startled to see a homeless man sleeping under a single blanket about 5 feet away from the closing garage door. Now, I know this will be unsettling to those of you who are already worried about the slightly sketchiness of my neighborhood, but it is merely a reality in an urban environment and one I’ve come into contact with at nearly all of my adult homes. However, despite my familiarity with the homeless community, my first thought was to call the police. This man was just too close for comfort, and simply could not sleep in such proximity to an extension of my home. Instead of calling the police, however, I felt like I was doing him a favor by honking my horn loudly nearby his sleeping body, hoping that he would wake up and wander away before I returned home.
As I drove away, I pushed thoughts of the man out of my head and continued about on my hurried errands.
A short while later, I returned home and had not given the sleeping fellow another thought. However, I was once again startled to see a figure as I rounded the corner into the alley. This time, he was sitting up and gave me a clear look, right into my eyes. Again, my first reaction was fear — I grimaced and quickly pulled into the garage, shutting the door before I exited my locked car. However, I sat there in the safety of a locked vehicle inside of a locked building, I couldn’t get his face out of my mind. Was he drunk last night (or even, right now?)? Perhaps. Was his story something I could never identify with? I’m sure. Could his motives through life be less savory than those shown on a Hallmark movie? Possibly. But is he a human? Absolutely. And is he hungry? I’m sure of it.
I headed through to the house and quickly threw together a bag of food — some clementines, carrots, airline peanuts, a couple pieces of bread and some beef jerky — and told Anthony quickly that there was someone sleeping out back. I told him that I would be asking him to leave, but didn’t want him going away hungry. I mostly informed my husband so that he would know what was going on out in the back alley — I didn’t need him to go with me, but I did hope he’d watch as I went and would come out if it had been too long. Empathetic or not, I’m not naive to the reality of a smallish girl greeting a strange man who has been sleeping in an alley.
Any concern Anthony might have had for the situation was for not, however, because as I opened the garage door once again, the man was gone. Was it our shared eye contact that drove him away, or was he already planning to move on? Either way, I had a bag of food for the man that he would never receive.
I re-entered the house and unpacked the food, adding it to our full pantry, and counted my blessings. I will never be that man in the alley, and I am so thankful for the lot I’ve received in life. No matter how low I get — whether it were to be financially, medically, or some other affliction — I know that I have the kind of support system that would simply not allow my body to spend a night on dirty pavement with only a thin blanket for shelter.
As the year draws to a close, I look back on the ups and downs, and am reminded that the ups have always far outweighed the downs for me. I am very lucky for the opportunities I’ve been provided, and try to live every day remembering that. Thank you to those of you who help me through those ups and downs, which seem minor in the grand scope of things, and I hope that I can be the same kind of support to you, in some way.
And on that note, I move into the new year with a grateful heart!
Stop and look around you
The glory that you see
Is born again each day
Don’t let it slip away
How precious life can be
With a thankful heart that is wide awake
I do make this promise
With every breath I take
Will be used now to sing your praise
And beg you to share my days
With a loving guarantee
That even if we part
I will hold you close in a thankful heart
(Muppets Christmas Carol)