Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Dregs of Humanity I

A dirty, shaggy person with a plastic cup huddles in the cold, looking for handouts. They are viewed as the dregs of humanity by those fortunates who pass by. Who will come to their rescue and what does this say about us?

A man stands by the side of the road near the traffic light. The full sum of his worldly possessions he carries in a small trash bag that is slung over his shoulder. His hands and face and hair are covered with dirt and grime and neglect. His shirt is so weathered and threadbare that you can no longer make out the once distinct pattern. A small stub of a previously discarded cigarette hangs on his lip. He doesn't make eye contact with any of the motorists in the passing cars. He has long since become immune to the frequent insults that are thrown his way. To the stares and finger pointing. To the humiliation and shame. He wears a makeshift cardboard sign around his neck, stating in bold letters that he has no job and nobody to take care of him. He is looking for a handout. Something, anything. This has gone on for so long that he wishes he could just disappear. He just aches for the pain to be over. There is no reason for him to be here anymore, and certainly nobody will miss him when he's gone. His eyes are glazed over and he is completely dead on the inside.

This poor, pathetic man is not alone. Over the past several years, these shadows have been appearing at more and more intersections. Some of them can be seen at the same place for several weeks before they are noticeably absent. Part of me hopes that maybe they have found a place to stay and get some food and a hot shower, perhaps someone to care for them and to look after them and talk with them. I truly hope that they can find that opportunity that will give them some semblance of a normal life. More likely than that, I suspect that they have just moved on to another place. At one intersection in town, a seemingly young woman had appeared. The same description of the man would be just as suited to her. She was a constant presence for a few weeks, and then she disappeared. I shudder to think where she ended up, what she gave up just to survive.

(Part 1 of 3)