For some reason the memory of this day has never faded. Possibly from the guilt that rises in my soul whenever the memory drifts across the palette of my mind. Why did I keep walking?
At the age of thirteen I remember going with my Dad to Boston. He sold pies at the Charles Square Farmer’s Market. Being from a very rural part of Vermont the explosion of ethnicity intrigued me. Every Sunday I would walk around the streets of Boston with my measly pocket allowance, my eyes embracing every detail.
I paid no attention to the beautiful young people in their designer clothes and suits. My eyes were focused on the Rastafarian with a guitar and an old knapsack slung over his shoulder. A young hippy girl spreading happiness with her smile, donned in an array of tie-die, and with a slight smell of weed permeating her clothes. A man, making a home of the streets, an old dog lying next to him on a tattered piece of cloth.
With cup in hand the man was shamelessly begging for kindness. I hesitated, how I wanted to give this man with a ragged Yankee hat and a stained sweatshirt something. Time seemed to slow and he caught my eye, he looked at me, his eyes piercing into my own. His face brightened and he gave me a beautiful smile of crooked and missing teeth. He reached down and patted his dog, still looking at me, still smiling. Every impulse in my body told me to stop walking, to help, but for some reason I didn’t. I kept walking and I never looked back.
Still, after a few years, I still don’t understand why I kept walking. How hard would it have been just to stop and show kindness in the form of a few dollars? Why couldn’t I stop?
Over the course of a year in the United States around 3.5 million Americans experience homelessness. If this is such a common occurrence then why do so many refuse to help? Why are our minds set for us not to help? The average American is two paychecks away from living on the streets, and yet this living condition seems so far away. The concept of homelessness is scary, but in truth it is a reality that everyone must face. Maybe that is why we don’t help. We don’t want to associate ourselves with the homeless because we are afraid of becoming homeless ourselves.
The natural impulses of mankind are to be good, but the overwhelming presence of society twists our desire to help and turns it into a desire to survive. Society tells us to be rich and successful, to be beautiful, to conform to laws, it does not care whether we are happy, or follow our morals. Society tells us that the homeless are that way because they are lazy and unsuccessful; they are addicts or those that suffer from mental illness. We are taught that these things are bad and we should not give to those who “should just get a job” or “clean themselves up.” The day we are born we are the very perfection that later on we strive to become. We are everything innocent and good. Why, after being so unblemished at birth, do we become the very opposite later on in life. Why do we cheat, steal, and lie? Why do we become “bad?” The society that molds our very existence is poisoning our ambitions. No longer do we desire to be happy, but now we want to reach the top and to do that we must “sin.” I will never disregard those less fortunate than me to reach the top nor will I forsake my own morals to be an “established member” of our so called society, and I will not forget that old homeless man sitting side-by-side with his canine companion. I will never forget his smile for he was happy and he was good, because he let go of the demoralizing constraints of the society that does indeed turn us bad.
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