Friday, February 22, 2008

Movin' On

Today was the last day on the street for one of my favorite beggars. I have passed him for years--maybe as many as ten--on my way to work. I have seen him in rain, snow, sleet; his cheeriness ever undimmed by the weather. He would nod to me, wish me a good morning; if I had run (i.e., if I was running past him) he would ask how it went; on days when I wasn't running he would ask after my health.

I have always found it interesting to observe others' reactions to his goodwill. Most folks simply ignored him, perhaps out of fear or embarrassment, who knows? Some nodded, some returned his greetings, some gave him money. I never gave him a dime, but today, on his last day, I shook his hand.

As I approached his morning spot (he has an evening spot elsewhere in the city), I overheard someone ahead of me wishing him well on his "last day." I kept moving, then stopped, turned around and went back.

"Did I hear something about 'last day?'"

"Yessir; today's ma last day. I'm movin' into a house [in a nearby sub-section of the city]. And I start a computer class next week, too; heh!"

"How long have you been out here? I mean, how long have I seen you."

[Pause; eyes rolling skyward] "I dunno. Years? Long time. I dunno."

"Well. Congratulations then." [Handshake.] "Really. I think you'll do well, I really do."

"Thank you, sir. It's been a long time, long time. I'll still come out now and again. I hafta pay for my supplies and things for my computer class."

"All right then, so, not good-bye, but farewell and we'll see you again."

"Yessir, no doubt sir."

As I returned to my pedestrian commute, I thought, again, "What is a man?" [the actual quote is “Without guilt / What is a man? An animal, isn't he? / A wolf forgiven at his meat, / A beetle innocent in his copulation.”]

My beggar acquaintance is a man, his perseverance and/or his stoicism make him so. His (apparent) alcoholism or, for all I know, his drug use does not necessarily take that away from him. I do not consider him a victim; I do not think he considers himself as such--or, if so, he does not overtly blame society for his condition.

What is a man? Is a man one who soldiers on, despite conditions or circumstances?

Why do I do what I do? Because I need to do so, for my family. Without family, I would be doing...something else (I guarantee you).

Aside: I am reading Unhooked, with Unprotected on order; why? Because as a father I have a duty to my daughters, to protect, provide, listen, and guide. That is my duty, and I assume it willingly, without question or (real) complaint. I am grateful that I have a duty--it reduces confusion and mental meandering.

I am glad for my beggar associate: I wish him well, bear him no ill will for his choices, and would like to see him succeed. Perhaps next time I will engage him in further discussion; it has been about 10 years, after all, that I have known (of) him.

Y'all have a great day today: figure out your duty, and do it.

No comments: