Life Lessons from a Homeless Man

Where I live, the window next to my desk overlooks a busy part of town. Recently, I was typing my dissertation and occassionally I would look out the window to give my eyes a break. On one occassion, as I looked out the window, I noticed a homeless man sit down on the side of the pavement on the otherside of the road to me. He had a very large coat on and proceeded to take some items out of the pockets, which mainly consisted of just a few half empty soft drink bottles. Finally, he just took his coat off, sat back and stared into space.

A thought then came to me: what was he thinking about, if anything? Although I have seen many homeless people before, I had never considered what they might be thinking about when sitting on the side of the street. What must they be thinking when so many people walk past them with clean clothes and bagfuls of shopping in their hands? What are they thinking when a couple walks past, hand in hand, and laughing together? What do they think when people come out of McDonald’s, just a couple of metres next to him, with burgers and chips in their hands and walk past him?

I am not saying that if we ever do any of these things that we are bad people, but I am just curious to know how a homeless person can handle seeing things like these. I tried to put myself in his shoes, and I didn’t know how I would be able to sit and watch all these things while I know that it is unobtainable for me. To me, his life just seemed so hopeless compared to everyone around him, and I don’t know how someone can live their life without hope. I think that everyone needs hope in their life or something to strive for. Watching him sit there, I just felt that he didn’t seem to have much hope. He didn’t look like he was planning how he was going to revive his life. I just didn’t understand how he can get up each day knowing that it’ll probably be the same struggle of finding food, drink and shelter as yesterday; as depressing as it sounds.

However, I then realised that the fact that he was able to get up and face the challenges every day, even without much hope, requires a very strong mentality. I certainly do not have a strong enough mentality to face the day if I was in his position. Perhaps even in the position he’s in, he’s able to see the positives in everything and that gives him a reason to continue to live.

Sure enough, something positive did then happen to him: a lady came out of McDonald’s and gave him a meal. Perhaps it’s these small acts of kindness each day that keeps him going and is the reason he hasn’t completely given up yet. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen him again since then, but I hope that wherever he is, he’s always able to continue to grasp that hope in his life.

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