Luxuries in the Eyes of a Homeless Man

Amy - Centennial, Colorado
Entered on October 14, 2007
Age Group: Under 18

I believe that no one can truly understand another’s plight until she witnesses the situation first-hand, putting the circumstances of the other into perspective, and affecting her emo-tionally. Seeing through another’s eyes can make one appreciate the seemingly insignificant as-pects of life.

All my life, I have taken the small luxuries in life for granted such as being able to buy whatever I wanted at the grocery store, or having a car to ride in and a roof over my head. I have seen people on the streets begging for money with “Will work for food” signs; I categorized them as “homeless” and unconsciously accepted the negative stereotypes that generally go with this label. For example, I had a fear of homeless people and never gave money to them thinking that they could always find a job. In addition, I assumed that the “needy” people with the signs had adequate money since they were wearing fairly nice clothing and shoes.

One day while standing in a check-out line in the grocery store, however, my entire mind set toward the homeless changed. Waiting for the cashier to ring-up two hundred dollars worth of items that I had helped my mom pick out, an impoverished-looking man in the express line caught my eye. With mud crusted on his face and tattered clothing hanging loosely on his body, the man handed over a Safeway gift card to the cashier as if he was giving up his most prized possession. He was using this to pay for his meager basket of generic items. He then asked if he had enough money to buy another Gatorade with the leftover balance of $1.15. Watching the man, I felt guilty for being so unappreciative of my ability to purchase groceries without a second thought. He had a look of hunger upon his face. This stranger pulled at my heart-strings and showed me that I should be grateful for even the tiniest blessings.

After leaving the grocery store, I couldn’t get the man out of my thoughts. I kept wishing that I could go back in time and give him some money. I realized that he could have been one of the many homeless people that I had previously rushed by on the streets, ignoring their pleas for money and food. I always thought I understood the homeless, but my comprehension of the lives they live and the trials they must go through everyday to survive was distorted.

After seeing the man in Safeway, I began to treasure every trip to the grocery store, with his image always lurking in the back of my head. Buying food was no longer a boring errand, but rather a privilege. I gained new respect for those on the streets and never again assumed that I already knew their stories. I never would have guessed that an underprivileged man could give me a new-found appreciation for everything I already had in life.