Sitting at a stoplight, the dull grayness of the day setting a quiet, somber mood, I listen to the quiet pitter-patter of a light rain, gently bouncing off my windshield. Around me, life is happening. Others in their own vehicles, living their own lives and dealing with their own problems. I wonder to myself what those might be. To my left, a man pushes a shopping cart overflowing with what I can only describe as garbage in my own eyes. Garbage that to him, represents everything he has, everything that keeps him alive. How did he get to this point? Is this the same man, that eight hours earlier I saw sleeping under a tarp in front of Planet Fitness? Appearing to go unnoticed as others pass him by, I wonder if society is guilty of some unforgivable sin as this man wanders aimlessly, or if his predicament is purely his own? Looking around there are many like him. Some hold signs begging for money, and others just watch the drivers ignore them. Empty looks of desperation tell a story we’re glad is not our own.
I look to the cars to the left and right, in search of a glimpse of humanity. The soothing sound of a gentle rain turns into a steady beat of a downpour. The impatience of waiting for the light itched my last nerve. Hoping to see others notice the suffering and despair, I see masked faces, emotionless, with no identity paying no attention at all. In an odd sort of way, I sense they find comfort in their hidden existence. As if the mask covering their face hides a part of themselves, they do not want others to see. What is it they fear? A virus, or facing their own inner demons? Perhaps the mask reflects how so many people feel in today’s world. Voiceless and powerless. Maybe they have accepted this as their fate. A reality they have no control over, so they find solace in serfdom. Freedom in enslavement. Behind me, the sound of a horn interrupts my thought. The light has turned green, and I had not moved. I sat paralyzed by the vision of an uncertain future. Trapped in fear all my own.
As I begin driving, I see an angry man yelling in my rearview mirror. I wonder what it was that twenty seconds of stillness had kept him from. The rain once again has softened, and a ray of light pierces the clouds as I suddenly realized, I had done the same thing myself on more than one occasion. As I continued driving, I realized the seriousness of the situation as up and down both sides of the street, homeless people wandered. Some, searching for their next fix, and others, desperate for a meal. I remembered giving money to a man who claimed to be hungry, only to see him minutes later coming out of a liquor store with a bottle of beer. You feel as if you had been taken. Robbed by somebody content with faking distress just so they can get something they were unwilling to work an honest day for. Since that time, I have given a few people some food, but no money. Is this wrong? Am I contributing to the problem by turning my own heart away from those in need? Or are those in need not trying hard enough to do what the rest of us do every day? Give everything we have, day in and day out so that we can barely make our own ends meet. Work our fingers to the bone only to have our own money taken by a government that does so in the name of welfare for the poor. Surely, I can’t be the only one who sees this.
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