He actually has a regal look about him, at least when first spotted, sitting on the side of the road. Long white beard, thin hair also uncut, in matching white shirt and shorts, soaked with sweat on some days. Looks almost like some sort of holy man one might see in India, along the roads there, begging while sitting in some sort of yoga position.
Yet when one got closer to him, as he was sitting on the side of the road, near the light, off the Cleveland Avenue exit, off I-75, that first appearance quickly changed, to something much harsher and mundane, which could not be ignored, I am sure, by most people who drove by.
He was very thin, crippled, his legs useless to him. The first time I saw him, I wondered how he got around, but have never found that out — someone must help him out a bit, to just get from one place to the next. He looks like a veteran, one of those broken by some war or another, seeking solace from whatever was in the brown paper bag he always has by his side, from which he will often take a sip.
He does not try to hide his brokenness, what life has done to him, probably would be honest about his own compliance in letting it happen, if asked. For his tragic state was complete, there for all to see. So I would guess humility would come with that, the truth unvarnished. Though perhaps not. I have not talked to him, just seen him as I drive by, his image soon becoming a white spot in my rearview mirror.
I suppose I have seen him four times over the past two years, always on my way to the Veterans clinic that is about three miles up on Cleveland. A few times I would stop near him at a red light. The first time I did not know what to do, for you have to get out of the car to give him anything, so perhaps some silly fear kept me from doing anything. The second time, he sat there drinking out of his bag, looking expectantly up at those passing by, I again came to a stop next to him. It was a long light, so I got some money for him, knowing that he would spend it most likely on drink, yet I did it anyway. I got out and handed him the money, he looked up and gave me a beautiful smile, saying: “God bless you friend,” then I drove on.
It is hard for me to even contemplate what kind of life he lives, crippled, living on the street, perhaps not wanting to do anything else; for mental illness must be part of it. Sometimes doing something is not much better than doing nothing, since if he used it for drink, perhaps I harmed him, yet I don’t really know. So if I see him again, I will again give me some money, having it ready in my shirt pocket as I get off at the Cleveland exit, off I-75.
For after all he is my brother, a human, who is in pain, who is also a good target, easy to feel contempt towards, put him in a box, shelve him and forget. Yet he is my brother and at times one can only do what can be done, which in the end is not much. Though I feel privileged that he gave me his blessing, for is he not made in God’s image?