Earlier today, I was at the bus stop downtown, and a young homeless man was sitting on a bench crying. I noticed he was crying right as I walked by when I hear a sniffle and could see his face. I stood under the cover and looked back at the man every so often, thinking of how I could help. He only had a couple of smaller plastic bags with him. Then I watched as he opened one.
He pulled out some clothes and threw them into the street. Buses drove over the pile as we all looked at them, mesmerized by the clothing in the street, becoming soaked by the rains. He then cried louder. I looked at him again. He didn’t look up.
After ten minutes, he stood up and opened the other bag, and pulled out a palm sized burgundy leather book. He looked at it for a minute and opened it. He became really agitated, turning red, breathing harder, and grit his teeth. He then began ripping out the pages one by one as if his only purpose was to ensure the book would be unrecognizable. He walked around throwing the pages on the street, some single pages, some shreds, some chunks with the binding still attached, lying in the street absorbing the raindrops which took over like tears from the man. Once done, he walked away from the bus stop, no bags in hand, no possessions except what was on his person. As he passed the corner, I couldn’t see him anymore.
I walked over to the pages strewn on the sidewalk to clean them up, almost hoping for some clarity in the situation. As I picked up the first page, I noticed it was from a bible. I looked down and saw the cover had a cross design pressed into the leather. I continued to pick up the pages, with each one thinking about this person who I knew nothing about, what brought them to this point, and felt guilty for not extending help in any way.
Another person standing at the bus stop went into the street to pick up some of the clothes; another grabbed the hat that flew from the pile with the wind. We came together at that moment to clean up the life this man left behind and looked at each other as if that was all we could do to help him. We all felt incapable of compassion because the outcome was likely not going to be in our favor.
As my bus arrived, I hopped on quickly to find a seat next to the window so I could look out to see if I could catch a last glimpse of the man. As we drove past the corner I last saw him at; I couldn’t find him. I was happy I didn’t see him in a worse state but was still curious about the man who left all behind.