The little boy was wearing a man’s size Army jacket. Under it he had dirty jeans and old sneakers. His face was clean, but his hair was not, and it was disheveled. He looked to be about eight or nine years old. Beside him, sitting on the curb, was an older man who by appearances was homeless. Even from a distance I could see the tell-tale signs of a hard addict life – it’s always the teeth that give that away.
I was between appointments mid-day and suddenly got hungry and pulled over at a fast food restaurant to grab a breakfast sandwich. I saw the pair sitting at the end of the drive-through line as I was waiting for my order.
I pulled away from the window and stopped to look at the boy who immediately approached my car with a dirty cardboard sign, “Homeless. Please help my dad and me.” I rolled down the window and handed him my bag with the sandwich, hash browns and an orange juice. When I did, the older man looked up and hissed, “We don’t want no food. Give the boy cash.” That’s when I saw the pipe laying on the curb beside the man and a baggie with a balled-up substance inside.
“Can he have breakfast?” I asked.
The boy’s eyes grew wide with fear as the man yelled, “Leave it.” He backed away from the car. I pulled away, unsure what to do.
I was haunted by that boy and later called the sheriff’s office to report what I had seen. The dispatcher knew exactly who I was mentioning and explained that the boy lived with his mother, a functioning addict who leant her son out on occasion for panhandling. They get many calls about the boy, respond, and each time the system returns him back to the home.
This week we celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr., day. In his words, “True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice that produces beggars needs restructuring.” Appropriate thought for this unfortunate small child.
This post seemingly is different from Life Without Gravity posts, but it may not be possible unless I had made the change to my new life a few months ago. You see, when I was consumed with my career and my to-do lists, I was less mindful. Today I see that little boy. A year ago, I may not have. I am becoming a more conscious and aware person in this more intentional life that I am developing. While MLK had a dream, I believe that I may just now be beginning to understand how to dream.
On this very special day, I will reflect on a great man’s wisdom and life, and while many will honor him in their own ways, I will choose to use his inspiration to remember to live a life more aware. To always see that little boy and to continue to make changes in my own actions to improve lives and not see past them. Thank you, Dr. King, for giving us examples and words that redirect our thinking back to protecting humanity, regardless of race, religion, socio-economic status and every other human differentiating factor.
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