On the way to the bus stop yesterday morning, my daughter told me she saw a man sleeping by the fence in the alley behind Taco Bell. She said, “He looks really cold, all curled up in a tight ball. He just has one thin blanket, and I bet his neck is stiff because his arm is bent under his head. He doesn’t have a pillow. I only see one little empty bag of Hot Chitos®. I wonder if that’s all he ate last night.”
We were in a hurry to catch the last bus into Denver, and I didn’t feel safe waking the man up, especially with my daughter in tow. We both felt sad, but at the moment, there was nothing we could do. Still, the situation weighed on our minds all day. When we enjoyed the music of a street drummer who tapped out lively rhythms on upside down buckets and water jugs while flipping his drumsticks and even whistling now and then, my daughter urged me to drop some change in his hat. Toward the end of our trip, I’d bought soft pretzels and Cokes for both of us, and my kid thought it over and decided to give her Coke to a homeless man sitting near the bus stop.
On our way home, we saw that the mattress and the blanket were still in the alley by the fence. That was when my kid had an idea. “Mom, what if we gather up some food from our house that doesn’t have to be cooked, and maybe a blanket and a pillow for him?”
“Good plan,” I said. “But let’s try to leave it here without meeting the man in person. He might feel awkward talking to us.”
I searched for words to explain. “Well … he’s kind of down on his luck right now. It might have been a while since he had a shower. He could feel shy about meeting new people.”
“I wouldn’t care.”
“But he might.”
We hurried home and put together some fresh oranges and bananas; some cereal bars; several cans of fruit, plastic spoons, and a can opener; some sunflower seeds and jerky; some Oreos® and Halloween candy; a box of cheese crackers; a tin of salmon; a few other odds and ends. I didn’t have a lot on hand that wouldn’t require preparation. My daughter asked if it would be rude to give the man her old Sophia the First® blanket and her Disney Princess reading pillow, since those were the only ones she had that she wasn’t using. I told her it was getting below freezing almost every night lately, and I was sure he would be glad to have them.
We carried the loot back to the alley, along with a note my daughter had written. She placed the things neatly on the mattress, and we left, both feeling a little better. I wished there was more we could do.
When we passed by the alley on our way to the movie theater this afternoon, my kid said, “The man must have been hungry. It looks like he ate the whole bag of baby oranges and one can of fruit. Maybe he hid the rest of the food because I don’t see it.”
“I hope he didn’t get sick on all that fruit at once,” I said. “I hope he really enjoyed it.”
“Maybe we can wrap up some of those strawberry mocha brownies you made and put them out here tomorrow,” my daughter suggested. “Like a gift a day. So he knows someone cares.”
“Okay, if we’re careful not to be seen,” I told her.
“Why do we have to be careful?”
“Some of the neighbors might not like it that a homeless man is living here, and if they see us feeding him, they might not be happy with that, either.”
“They can go suck a lollipop!” My daughter stopped walking and squeezed my hand. “He has to sleep somewhere, right?”
“He does. I didn’t say it was right, and I didn’t say we wouldn’t do it. I just said we have to be careful.”
So people, if my thirteen-year-old can walk around with her eyes open and take notice of those in need, so can we all. Put down your cell phones and do something. Make a positive difference in your corner of the world. If everybody reaches out a little, even now and then, big changes will happen.
About the Author
Jo Elizabeth Pinto was among the first blind students to integrate the public schools in the 1970’s. In 1992, she received a degree in Human Services from the University of Northern Colorado. While teaching students how to use adaptive technology, she earned a second degree in 2004 from the Metropolitan State College of Denver in Nonprofit Management. She freelances as an editor and a braille proofreader and is a contributor of The Writer’s Grapevine Magazine where more articles like this may be found.
As an author, Pinto entertains her readers while giving them food for thought. In her fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, she draws on personal experience to illustrate that hope is always an action away.
Pinto lives in Colorado with her husband, her teenage daughter, her guide dog Spreckles, and an aging family cat named Sam-I-Am.
Her website is: http://www.brightsideauthor.com.