It began in the County Mall food court. Resting at one of the tables after my lunch, I casually glanced around the place. The food court wasn't crowded, and consequently I had no trouble spotting him: a tall, dark, gray-haired man. He caught my gaze, and started walking towards me. As I took in his gaunt frame, his tattered red t-shirt, and the holes in his great sweats, it dawned on me that before me stood a homeless man. Reaching my table, he asked if he could sit down with me but I declined. I wasn't in the mood to talk to him, and so mumbling a poor excuse and an apology that was probably a few octaves below any decipherable level, and not particularly caring whether the man heard me or not, I got up and walked away. The man called out after me, assuring me that he didn't want money, but rather only someone to talk to. I was rattled by his persistence, and pretending I didn't hear him I quickly walked away, my heart pounding in my chest.
Later that day the incident gnawed on my mind; that I coldly turned down a man who simply wanted someone to talk to was uncharacteristic and appalled me. As I lay awake that night, listening to the rain beat against my roof, my thoughts drifted back to the man at the mall. Was he outside in this rain right now? Was he cold, wet, and hungry? Was he lonely? The thought of him feeling abandoned because of me weighed even more heavily on my conscience. In my first year of high school I suffered through a terrible ordeal that distanced me from my friends for some time. I am familiar with the despair that arises from loneliness, and it made my guilt all the more acute. As I lay in bed, I felt frustrated and angry with myself for acting so callously.
I was eager to ...
... middle of paper ...
...change from the torpid state I found him in and I was elated by the transformation.
Since the mall incident my time with the homeless have widened my eyes considerably. I learned about panhandling, canning routes, and day labors. I learned about the depression and loneliness that plagues many of the homeless. When I glance upon the effusive joy they derive from STATH's help, I get an idea as to how scathing my rejection might have been to the homeless at the mall. If only I could live the day over -It's a thought I've entertained on many occasions. I fear that in my callousness I have driven the man into a deep despair at the thought that no one wants to spend their time with him. Every time I adopt another homeless on one of STATH's excursions, I relive the incident at the mall. Only now, I take solace in the fact that I make the right decision.
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