Category Archives: Humanity
I had an interesting interaction yesterday, and it really impacted me at a radical and fundamental level. As I took a smoke break at the office (yes, I still smoke), I looked over toward the front of the building and spied someone lying in the grass. The person appeared to be sleeping. I assumed it was one of the tenants of the building catching a nap, or maybe one of their clients, biding time before an appointment. An hour or so later, I saw the person was still there, and started watching. After a few minutes, the person stood, and I could see it was a young male, I would estimate in his early twenties. He was dressed only in his underwear. The young man stretched and walked over to a nearby vinyl fence separating the business parking lot from the neighboring property. He then grabbed the top of the fence, and banged his head on it a few times, pulled the top of the fence to-and-fro, banged his head a couple more times. He then stood with his belly against the fence, and urinated on it.
My observations quickly led to a reassessment of the napper, and I can’t say it was positive. His affect appeared agitated, perhaps drug-induced. He returned to his spot in the grass (right behind my car), and sat down. At this point, I decided to observe him more closely. I returned inside the building and went to the front, where I could observe him through a window. After a very short time, the young man picked up his few belongings — some clothes and a plastic bag containing some apparently light items — and began walking back along the side of the building, toward the side door from where I had originally observed him. I followed from inside the building.
The young man walked along the east side of the building. My office is located on the northeastern corner, so I went there and watched as he walked around that corner, and behind the building. (My building is fenced on three sides.) I continued following, as he traversed to the west side, where he put his clothes on, shorts and a t-shirt. He then returned to the east side of the building, where he laid down directly underneath my office window. My desk and chair are directly in front of this window. The window has blinds, which were turned downward but not shut. He lay down on his stomach and cradled his head in his arms.
I was concerned at this time. I strongly considered calling police to have him removed from the site, as he clearly did not belong there. I weighed the action in my head as I watched him lie beneath my window. He could tell he was being watched, as he sat up a couple times and looked around, each time laying back down. And I contemplated. I wondered if perhaps he was homeless — a very distinct possibility in these times. Nonetheless, it was nearing the end of the workday, and I was not desirous of him continuing to be right outside my window as I left my office. Should I call police? Should I ignore him?
And then, as I watched his feet dawdle, in their flip-flops, a thought occurred to me. What if that was my son? What if one of my sons were to find himself in that very place, with someone like me secretly staring from behind blinds? I wondered what had brought him there, and whether he was hungry. Tears welled up into my eyes, and I instantly knew my course of action. I had an apple in the refrigerator from a lunch I had not quite finished a week or so past. I had a water bottle I had earlier emptied that day. I went to the kitchen and retrieved the apple, and filled the bottle with tap water, and I went outside.
I exited from a door near where he was laying, and he instantly stood up. He positioned himself in the middle of the side lawn as I approached. And I asked him, “Are you hungry?” He looked at me for a second and said, “What?” I repeated, “Are you hungry?” and added, “Do you want this apple?” His breath went out of him, and it was clear he had been holding it. He smiled, and took the apple from me. I then handed him the water.
The young man seemed to feel a need to explain himself, and began a fragmented story about police and the “psych ward.” But that wasn’t why I was there any longer. I looked at him and said, “That is all I have. This apple and water.” He looked at me and said, “Wow. I didn’t expect that,” and his eyes watered up. I nodded to him and turned to go back inside. He called to me, “Thank you,” and I told him he was welcome. I never saw him again after that.
Speaking only to what I experienced, because I cannot presume to speak for him, I had turned my fear into compassion, my protectiveness into caring, my anxiety to kindness, and that apple and water did far more for me yesterday than it would have if I had ingested them.
I came home that night, and watched the waxing moon, nearly full, floating among stars and flirting with the clouds, at peace, and feeling whole.