I gave a hungry man an apple yesterday and I keep thinking about it. I don’t want to trivialize it, but I wanted to write about him. I keep seeing him at the other end of the subway car gnawing the apple as if his life depended on it. And maybe it did. I thought of him this morning in my insomniac hours. I thought about the homeless families I read about in the New York Times and I wanted to write and comment about what homelessness is, but that seems so boring and unlikely to change anything. People read me, but no one is going to read what I have to say about homelessness and change anything. I don’t know what would remove the image of that man from my brain. I don’t know that I should remove that image. I just keep thinking about it. So many times I have sat on the subway car and a person comes on and says, Excuse me, Ladies and Gentlemen, apologizes, and then proceeds with their spiel. So many times I have been slightly annoyed by the interruption, yet felt guilty at the same time. I simultaneously realize how close to precarious is my own financial situation, yet I acknowledge that we are nowhere near completely homeless and there are people in our lives who would ensure true homelessness is a most unlikely possibility. I know also how pitiful and useless would be the change in my pocket. And honestly, I am slightly resentful at being asked even though it isn’t fair to feel this way. So I do nothing. But there have been times when I have had food, times before moving to New York, when I would give food to people asking for it. This time I had an apple, he asked for food, why not? He told his sad story and I handed him my apple, then thought nothing more of it until I looked up minutes later to see him devouring that apple like he hadn’t eaten in days. It was ginormous and red and beautifully ripe, a sort of dream apple. It makes me weep to think of his hunger, swallowing the pieces so quickly he could not have had time to enjoy much of its fragrant sweetness. It makes me wonder what would happen if I ever gave into the urge I have had in the past to ask the person to sit down and talk to me. Sometimes I am afraid because the person seems to be mentally ill. I don’t want to be screamed at. Other times I just don’t do it. I’ve never done it. But the urge has been there over and over. I have wanted to stop my car (back when I had and drove a car) and ask the person holding the sign What happened? How did you get here? But I haven’t done it. I wonder if I ever will.
And then there’s the man standing by the freeway exit here in town. I had no money but offered him some very nice muffins. He said “No thanks, my mouth is so dry already!” I didn’t have any water or I would have given him that…
But I was perplexed. Honestly, if you were homeless and had to sit at a freeway exit with a sign, wouldn’t you take a muffin and set it aside for later, just in case?
I’m glad you were able to give your apple to someone who truly needed it 🙂
As my son would say, “It puts a wrinkle on your heart.” So sad, but good you were there and generous of heart.