As the sun disappeared below the horizon, the sparkling city lights of London gradually illuminated the starless sky. My grandparents and I hurried through the dense crowd of people accumulating on the streets. Evidently, we were not the only family leaving the city after a long day of sight-seeing. I clutched my grandpa’s hand as we descended a staircase that led into the Underground.
At the base of the steps, my eyes settled on a disheveled man. He sat in a corner on a scruffy blanket, and held a small dog in his lap. The man’s clothes were tattered, grimy, ill-fitting. I looked down at my own clothes. They were in perfect condition, no signs of tears or stains. This man had nearly nothing, but I had more clothes, money, and food that what I would ever need. Compared to him, I was royalty.
As we drew nearer, I stared at a sign placed before them. It pleaded: PLEASE HELP US, WE ARE HUNGRY. I could feel the weight of the money in my pocket, and my fingers itched to reach for it, but I resisted. I knew I would appear foolish if I wasted my money on this beggar. Besides, if no one else was donating their change to this man, why should I?.
I examined his dirty face. It was deeply etched with the disgrace and torment of his life. He was ignored. He was abandoned. Sympathy and guilt overwhelmed me, but my course did not change. Still, I thought: how could I continue walking, even when I had so much to give?
Most of us are ignorant of how blessed we are, until the reality of suffering cripples us. I believe in counting our blessings and helping those with less than us. Many of our lives are filled with convenience, money, and freedom. Often, we take advantage of these pleasantries and forget how truly fortunate we are. We do not realize that somewhere in the world, even in our own community, there is a myriad of poverty, however concealed it may be. People without homes, food, and comfort are all around us, and yet we are too consumed in our own lives to realize it. Attempts to tackle this problem are futile, unless people stand and take responsibility. Opportunities to benefit the unfortunate are all around us, we just have to find the willingness to help.
Long after I left London, the distressed face of the vagrant haunted my memory. I have always been curious to the pathway that that tragic man walks today. Would his impending fate have changed if I had done my part to better society? I will never know. But with every opportunity I am given, I do my best to remember how fortunate I am, and offer whatever I can spare to those in need, as if they were the very same pauper in the London subway.
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