Before 7 AM the streets of Boston belong to the runners and the homeless. This man was sleeping on a bench in Copley Square early this morning holding a small America flag. I walked past him, like everyone does…but could not get him off my mind. So I circled back. I didn’t decide lightly to take his picture but I could not resist. I wanted to share his presence.
I think we have become de-sensitized to what’s disturbing around us. People walk by this man all day and make sure not to look…but he is still there. I wonder why we don’t want to look too long or think too deeply about someone is those shoes. What scares us about that?
I come to Boston quite a bit and always bring a small pile of one dollar bills. I give a dollar or two to pretty much anybody who asks. In the process I always look the person in the eye and say hello…maybe exchange a sentence or two. I always leave seeing a real person there who is actually as smart and as human as the rest of us. There is one big black guy who “owns” the spot behind the mail box outside Dunkin Donuts on Boylston. He is very bright. His eyes light up when he talks. He sees me coming and smiles as we know each other now.
The acknowledgement that a person exists is more powerful than the one or two dollars I share. To feel invisible must be deeply painful.
It all reminds me a bit of my time on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Those who contemplate the “rez”or the homeless often find their minds moving to “solutions”, “strategies”, “initiatives” and “judgement”. I understand why…but…I don’t think it’s what is most needed. If it was, Pine Ridge and homelessness would have been “fixed” long ago. I think awareness and connectivity…one human to another human…is what’s needed most. Seeing and acknowledging a person that feels invisible is…in and of itself…a powerful act.
Wopila Tanka for all you do!