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Slice 71 of 365

I was in town yesterday buying printer cartridges at Staples. On my way out a young man asked me if I had some extra cash for him to get something to eat. I said not today and kept walking without missing a step. He said thank you and kept walking as well.

I’m not in town a lot but there is a growing homeless problem in Prescott and even here in Chino lately there’s been a man holding a sign by the entrance of Safeway. We don’t exactly have a town center so if there are more I just don’t see them.

Last August when we moved Mike to LA we were out the next morning getting bagels and passed by a homeless man leaning against a closed storefront window. He didn’t look up and we passed by him like he was invisible.

I felt bad about not even smiling at him or saying hello and I didn’t really know why I didn’t acknowledge him. I was too busy? He was beneath me? He was dirty I could catch something? Societal pressure?

I thought about him for a few days after that and told myself the next time I encountered a homeless person that I would stop and talk to them.

I had that chance yesterday and rushed past the opportunity without thinking. After I got to my car I pulled back around the parking lot and found him still walking in the direction he was going when he left me. I rolled down the window and waved him over. I introduced myself and found out his name was Brandon. He looked young 20s, scraggly reddish beard.

I asked if he was homeless and he said yes. I said do you mind if I ask why you’re homeless and he said drugs and that he’d been sober a week. I had no idea if it was the truth or not. He looked clean, no odors and his handshake was strong, that all went contrary to the stereotype in my head.

We talked for a few more minutes and then I gave him $10. He said thank you, shook my hand again and said he appreciated it. I believed him. He put the money in his pocket and walked straight into the supermarket we were across from.

As I was asking questions I wondered if I was being rude but he didn’t seem to mind. I think I was being too direct and was more worried about being scammed than being compassionate.

It’s hard to trust someone you don’t know let alone one on the street asking you for money. I may still have trust issues handing over money to strangers but I will stop and at least say hello and smile from now on.

I will acknowledge they are living, breathing, feeling human beings that have not been forgotten by society.

They are not invisible.

Until tomorrow…

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