Monday, April 18, 2011

Life in the District

Sometimes I'll exit the subway on my way to work and, as today, walk to work past the Central Union Mission, a homeless shelter. This morning I was leaving my morning coffee shop (not a Starbucks-type shop for sure) when I noticed an elderly African-American with a cane leaning over on the sidewalk.

I watched him closely as I passed by because I thought he might be sick. No, he was bent over emptying the contents from a small glass container of whiskey into an opened bottle of an energy drink that he'd placed on the sidewalk.

I felt so bad for this defeated man, and our system. A moment later I heard the breaking of glass and I saw that the homeless man had surreptitiously broken the whiskey flask under the iron grating of a small sidewalk sapling that will someday grow into a mature shade tree along that street.

By then I imagine this human being, whatever his lonely story, will be gone thanks to this great society's lack of an encompassing social safety net. Perhaps we'll all be departed by then as well, not having taken care of each other or our environment along the way.

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