The bus came to a stop. Two people got on, and another began fastening his bike to the front. The bus driver honked to hurry the young man, and he apologized as he jumped on the bus, “Sorry, I just wanted to make sure it was secure.”
He sat down opposite of me as he began to talking to a very drunk man at my side. They exchanged pleasantries, and the boy smiled as he removed his hat. “I got a haircut. It’s going to get me a job,” he said wide grinned and giddy.
I could see where his newly shaven head had once held thick hair. His scalp was just a little bit lighter, but he didn’t care. Whatever had been was gone.
I watched them behind my dark sunglasses as he began telling the man he too, could get a haircut and possibly a job. “It’s real close! It’s just two doors down from the shelter…”
Shelter….the word hung in the air as I exhaled. My heart began beating quickly and I was overcome with emotion. I knew exactly which “shelter” he meant. I knew the location, and I knew it meant this boy was homeless.
Something inside of me started arguing, “But, but he’s young! He’s polite! He obviously has a cheerful disposition!” I couldn’t shake it, and still cannot.
I walked the brick path from my bus stop to class watching the multitude of colored students walking by me. Their red backpacks, the blue jackets, brown shoes….yellow hats. And I thought about what I have always thought about – how easily I could be this young boy.
We all come from where we come from, and often it isn’t something that is easy to escape. But as the recession has risen, and most people lose jobs I feel it more and more. The brink, the line that divides us, and separates our worlds.
I don’t come from a poor background, but my family doesn’t have a lot of money. I’d say we are middle class, but poverty has always seemed much closer to my reality than wealth. I’ve seen my parents struggle to pay bills, yearn for vacation time or work more than one job to get by. But we’ve always had enough.
However, as an adult I’ve always felt so close to falling over the “class” edge, and drowning.
An outsider would look at my life and say, “She goes to a top-notch university, she works, her only debt is college loans…she’s fine.” But they don’t know the whole story, nor do they know the smaller fears I have in between….the teeth that need attention, the car past its youth…
How does a young boy on the bus come to live in a shelter? I could hear he was intelligent, I could see he wasn’t lazy and I could feel his compassion toward the other homeless drunken man. What is wrong with this picture?
I often see things a little too clearly sometimes, and seeing this boy really touched me. While the world is in up-rise, while countries are at war over protest and blood is being shed – we too, here in America are falling below deck. We are sinking.
I look at my own life and see the tiny steps, the smallest decisions I’ve made that completely changed my course through life and I am thankful.
I want so much from life and I have great dreams of achievement, but the thing is: I could accomplish all of those things, live all of those dreams, but if I get on a bus and see a story such as this…I will feel as if I’ve accomplished nothing.
I want to help. I want to do something. I want to be an inspiration, I want to spread faith and hope, and I want to help those around me….
I guess the figuring it out part is what I have left to do. I know I can’t live for myself, because when I do nothing is as sweet as when someone or something else is my sustenance.
I don’t want to take my life for granted, and I don’t want to forget the road I have traveled. I want to build a new road.
I want to see a wider path where others can find their way.