One of the things that we, the privileged and gainfully employed, often don’t -really see- are the hungry and the homeless who live on the edges of our society.
Tonight, while I sat snug in my long, clean coat waiting for my food at the taqueria, a man came in, walked up to the counter, set down a dilapidated can of chicken soup, and asked if they had a microwave.
He was covered in the familiar layer of grime that adorns most who live on the streets. His clothes had no holes, however, and while he walked with a bit of a hunch in his back, he was a tall man. He was also polite, and never once asked anyone else for money or food.
Behind him were about a half dozen people waiting to place their orders. The restaurant staff were clearly a little uncomfortable and didn’t quite know what to do. The other patrons were doing their best to pretend he wasn’t even there.
So I got up, and asked him if he’d like to have some dinner, which he very gratefully accepted. I bought him a burrito, and while we waited for our food I stood and talked to him about the distance he’d walked that day, how he doesn’t have a place to live but he has a suit that he keeps clean so he can go to church, and various other random topics.
My order arrived first, and as I said goodbye and wished him a nice evening, a look of profound gratitude and sadness came over his features and he hugged me. As soon as he stepped back, he seemed to become certain he’d done something wrong, and apologized for being dirty and sweaty. I put my hand on his arm and assured him that it was fine, and to please just sit down and have a hot meal.
These are *people*, and it’s heartbreaking that they’re so often treated like something distasteful to be swept under the rug.
(Originally written in 2013)