Thursday, 27 September 2012
Be nice to the 'Henrys' of the world...
I meet a lot of homeless people due to the location of my workplace. The mission that serves lunch at noon each day is just across the street and the traffic gets a little heavy starting around 11 a.m.
There are two ways one could look at this. Depending on who you are, and which type of homeless person approaches you, it’s either an opportunity or a nuisance. Sometimes they stop and talk to you. Not because they want anything but, because they just want someone to talk to. Sure, you have your usual requests for cigarettes, a lighter, and money but, overall, they don’t really bother you. They’re content with their lives just the way they are and they’re just trying to make it like everyone else. Some choose to be there and some don’t. Some are mentally ill. Some are physically disabled. Some just like the freedom.
I’ve been barked at (yes, really), yelled at, and cussed. I’ve also had interesting conversations with people who just want to talk.
I’ve met Dante, and Henry, and the space station administrator. Some are scary. Some are just sad.
Take Henry, for instance. He’s tall and slender and is probably much younger than he looks. About once a week he seems to find a place to shower and change clothes, although I’ve never seen him carrying anything with him except his coat. Even in summer he never lets that coat out of his sight. Sometimes he’s lucid and sometimes he’s not. When he’s not lucid he won’t talk to you or acknowledge you. He just sits alone and mutters to the voices in his head. When he is lucid, he’ll tell you not to give him money because he’ll only buy alcohol with it. He never asks for anything but, will take something if you offer it. Each afternoon I see him walking through our alley picking up cigarette butts. If he’s lucid he’ll wave and smile.
Sometimes I wonder what’s in his head. Sure, he talks about things. But mostly it’s clear he keeps a lot of his thoughts to himself.
I know that he’s a vet. I know that he only contacts his family about once a year. I know that he likes to drink. I know he has some kind of psychiatric illness. I know that he is kind. I know that he smiles if you talk to him without treating him as if he’s less than human. I know that last year he was drunk and fell into the river and broke his leg. I know that he couldn’t wait to get out of the hospital but was so thankful for the haircut and clean clothes they gave him. I know that he doesn’t take his meds because they make him feel weird. I know that if one day I just didn’t see him I’d wonder if he was okay.
I know that now that I’ve written this I kind of feel crappy and helpless because I can’t save the world. All I can do is be nice to the Henrys I meet.
Posted by Erica Tomlin