Friday, October 13, 2006

Hey, Poppa?

I left the gym a little earlier than usual this morning, and decided to indulge in my 2 remaining vices, caffeine and nicotine. After walking out of my morning spot, I went across Tremont to sit on a bench in the common and watch the garbage and pigeons fly around. It is a beautiful fall morning and the sky is fading from a pale silvery blue in the east to brilliant aquamarine in the west, the air is cold enough that I was wishing that I had put on something warmer than a jeans jacket. As I was just sitting there getting lung cancer on the installment plan, I heard someone saying, "Hey, Poppa?" Looking up, there was a pretty disreputable homeless guy. "Hey, Poppa... could I have a cigarette please?" I looked at this guy who I doubt has seen a shower for quite some time. Where his skin wasn't red, it was blue from the cold. I couldn't tell you how old he was. He had obviously been living rough for quite a while and he could have been 70 or he could have been my age. I pulled out the pack and gave him a smoke. He lit up and thanked me a couple of times, and as he was getting ready to walk away he said, "Nice hat."

I'm not sure why this has struck me so much. Maybe because the way the world is working these days, I like a lot of people am only a paycheck or 2 away from the streets myself. Maybe it was because this guy who hasn't got much of anything else left, has unlike so many who have so much, has managed to keep courtesy.

I read an article yesterday about the McNews culture and how the media keeps us entertained with celebrity news, distracting us with the hijinx of the rich and famous and ignoring real issues that are just too hard to think about. One of the issues sited in the article was the growing population of the homeless in the land of plenty and the growing disparity of wealth. I don't know what it will take to make people realize that unless we do something, make some effort to be a little more selfless, that we too might wind up asking some older guy for a handout because having made bad choices or just because of bad luck we are out on the street, hoping someone will give us a handout, because the society we live in won't give us a hand up.