I was rolling down the sidewalk. A homeless guy was camped out for the night in front of the entrance of a closed store.
He sat on a dirty blanket that was spread out on the ground, eating a hunk of chicken. When he looked up and saw me rolling by he held out his food, as if to offer it to me, and he said, “You hungry?”
There was a time when I would’ve been disturbed by that. Homeless people are almost always very nice to me, even though I never give them money. It’s too much of a pain in the ass for me to dig cash out of the leather pouch attached to the side of my wheelchair so if they ask for money I just lie and say I don’t have any.
For some reason, a lot of homeless people call me “big guy” when I pass them. “How ya doing, big guy?” They’re almost always eager to help me. One time a homeless guy ran out in the street when he saw me coming, stopped traffic and waved me across like a crossing guard, even though I didn’t need him to. All I had to do was wait for the light to change.
Sometimes homeless people ask everyone else who passes them for money but they don't ask me. I used to be insulted by that. It used make me feel like demanding that they ask me for money too, even though I’d lie and say I didn’t have any if they did. Or it made me feel like I should flash two hundred bucks at them, just to teach that presumptuous homeless person that not all cripples are even more broke ass than they are.
But that was stupid of me to feel that way. Why should I assume that if a homeless guy tries to give me his food, it’s because he thinks I’m pathetic? I guess it’s because that’s what cripples are used to. We can become jaded because we’re bombarded by the fake generosity of charity, where people give because they see a cripple and think, “There but for the grace of God go I!” In other words, pity.
That’s probably why I assumed that when a homeless person tries to help me, it’s because they think I’m pathetic. But when I try to help them, it’s not because I think they’re pathetic. The people I think are pathetic are the Young Republicans.
So maybe when the homeless guy offered me his chicken, what he felt was empathy. Maybe he saw me as a brother who’s left out, too. What’s his is mine.
So when the homeless guy offered me his chicken, I decided to take it as a gesture of solidarity. I just said, “Thanks, man. I’m good.”He resumed eating. He looked relieved.
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