He walked up to me, his face marked with scars, his gaze filled with shame, and everything he owned in a back pack slung over his shoulder. I knew immediately that he was homeless, but he didn’t ask for money, he simply asked for a sandwich. As I smiled and gazed into his eyes and asked him what his favorite type of sandwich was, he began to cry. I listened to the horrors of his life as he shared each beating and mugging, while tracing each scar on his face. I realized that my words of comfort and hope in his strength to survive, combined with the sandwich I could offer to fill his empty stomach, felt inept and insufficient.
I held him while he cried, and kept repeating, “I believe in you, there is hope”. I shared with him my passion for my profession and the determination I have to bring the “forgotten and unloved” out of the dark. While my children watched, I took time to look James in the eye, LISTEN to his story, and hopefully I planted a tiny seed of hope.
At the time, I was struggling with my fear and despair over the loss of my family’s medical benefits and our ever worsening financial situation. Ironically, I realized as I held James in my arms that I know NOTHING of despair!!!
Where I go home to my 2000 square foot house, James finds a wall in the subway, out of the wind, to “sleep”. Where I have the love of my family and am never “alone”, James lives in forced solitude. Where I experience health and a full belly, James experiences hunger and pain; and where I still have HOPE for my future, James has tears and the distinction of being one of the “forgotten and unloved”.
As I started to walk away, James asked if he could come see me at work and if I would be able to help him. I gave him a sad smile as I explained that I was only in D.C. for a brief visit with friends and I lived in Northwest Arkansas. My heart broke again as the look of hope faded once more from his eyes. I removed a 7hills Homeless Center bracelet from my wrist and passed it to him with another quick hug.
As he slipped it on his wrist, I told him that it would serve as a reminder that “we” are out there, “we” believe in him, and “we” love, unconditionally.
Robin Scott Dorf
firstname.lastname@example.orgPurveyor of Words