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Friday, August 9, 2013

It Could Happen to You

It was nothing out of the ordinary, what our protagonist was planning to do. It was an usually cool and comfortable summer evening. Stunning in fact, and far too nice to stay indoors. So he contacted a friend and they made plans. Just a quick dinner on Chicago's north side. Something he had done at least 100 times before. And every time, nothing out of the ordinary ever happened. Until this night. For what happened this night was an event small in action, but large in consequence.

It was rush hour and traffic was heavy. He was stopped at a stoplight, located at Ashland and Fullerton. Just a few more minutes, the light would change and he would be on his way. He loved this part of Chicago and was always intrigued by it. He saw this portion as a sort of a gateway to the "high fidelity/well to do" neighborhoods of Chicago's north side.

While sitting at the light, he noticed something that surprised him. It was a homeless women, walking in between cars, asking people for spare change. It wasn't the fact of seeing a homeless person that surprised, but seeing a homeless person in this area of the north side, is what caught him off guard. Her face was weathered by the elements and yet there was a quiet dignity about her. She held her head up, making sure she made eye contact with all of the drivers she spoke with.

The protagonist reached for his wallet, and took out a couple of dollars. He called the women over to his car. As he handed her the money, she held onto his hand firmly but gently. She looked at him, and said "People always assume that this will never happen to them. But we're people too.We just had a harder time of it. Thank you for your kindness."

And with that, she walked away. The encounter only lasted a few seconds, but those few seconds profoundly impacted our protagonist. For days he re-lived this simple encounter over and over again in his mind. And one thing kept coming to the forefront. We don't see the humanity of homeless people. Instead we see them as burdens and problems.

He would put the television on and hear talking heads discuss how "America is a Christian nation". They call  themselves Christians, yet they don't follow Christ he thought. He would read the paper and see how Congress wanted to cut funding to food stamps...again.She was right, we assume that homelessness would never happen to them. We truly don't recognize the humanity of the homeless.

But all hope wasn't lost. For he realized that he had received a gift from this homeless women. It was the reminder to see the humanity of the homeless. That with every encounter with the homeless, there is a story. And that story is important. From then on, he vowed never to forget this valuable lesson he had received.

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