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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Geese Won’t Be the Only Ones Heading South Soon

I look at my cell phone:  6:36.  The temperature is a brisk 40-something, and I’ve worn a cap for the first time in five months. 

We have begun the short and frosted slide from fall to winter.  Like all good Minnesotans, I say this with a slight but determined smile on my face, a thin-lipped acknowledgement that there’s nothing we can do about it but hey! there’s always the promise of guilt-free gravy, am I right?

One strives to maintain one’s fat layers in the northern climes. 

The bus stop has a small enclosure consisting of three glass walls – one covered by a posted bus schedule – and an arched roof; and I wonder, as I approach it, why the woman with the long red hair is not standing under its roof, as she normally does.

I cannot see yet, due to the posted bus schedule, what she can. 

There is a man standing in there. 

At first, I can’t put my finger on it…

And then I realize, as I get closer:  It’s the dirt. 

The fine, powdery dirt one finds in well-traveled areas, places where the earth no longer offers nourishment. 

It is caked around his nostrils.  His hands are black with it, his nails, encrusted. He is wearing sweatpants, a red Buckeye’s jersey that would turn the water in the clothes washer brackish and leave it in need of a good scrubbing. 

He turns, looks up the block for the bus.  His hair, while combed, is dusted, dirty.  His ears, filthy and yet a dark, mottled pink, look like pork rinds. 

At this moment, he is, outside of a handful of toddlers I know, one of the dirtiest people I’ve ever come across in public. 

He has slept outside, in the dirt, and quite possibly without a blanket of any sort.

More than once.

The bus comes, and we board.


And I wonder what he will do when the temperatures dip below freezing.

35 comments:

Shelly said...

If only that dirt could talk, I'm sure it could tell stories we've never imagined.

Humanity- we're all so alike, and yet so very different.

Indigo Roth said...

Don't fret Pearl, that was an eccentric millionaire. He'll afford an electric blanket and a portable generator when he sleeps rough. Roth x

Simply Suthern said...

Feel Free to send him south. You can keep the geese.

Delores said...

I know...come the cold weather I sometimes lay awake at night wondering where the street folks are sleeping and if the shelters were adequate for the demand.

Buttons said...

Oh Pearl that makes me sad but knowing you are wearing your hat makes me happy. I know weird eh?:) B

jenny_o said...

So many people in the world have fallen through the cracks, which are sometimes gaping holes ... why is it after so many centuries out of the cave we still cannot look after our fellow man? Even a socialist society cannot keep up with everyone. And the truth is, any one of us could end up needing help.

vanilla said...

A description that is hard to read; and doubtless a difficult one for you to write. Heart-rending. And he is just one example of thousands in our nation who are living as he does.

Pearl said...

I wondered if I should write this, and then decided that I should. Not everything is funny, and too much of what is not is visible to too few.

I dunno. I don't know what to do about it other than to be aware of it.

esbboston said...

If things get too cold too soon or too much, you can always come visit Shelly and me in Texas.

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

A cruel season is coming.

Yamini MacLean said...

Hari Om
Pearl, awareness is like this is a major step. When clients or devotees ask of me 'how do I...?' in relation to this or similar issues, the response the comes up is, 'if it hurts, do something about it. You may not be able to help the individual, or individually; but this is where giving comes in...'

In your case, seek out the local shelters - give what you can in whatever way you can. As well as continuing to raise not just your own awareness but that of others. This story, Pearl, is a gem.

I would suggest to you that the Salvation Army might be interested in it for a campaign.

Help is not always just in handouts.

.....see what happens with poignant osts? &*) YA((((( U )))))M xxx

Yamini MacLean said...

...(bad typos sorry - but blurry eyes...) xx

Daisy said...

So many are like him in so many places in our world. Makes me sad to think about it, but I also wonder what he and others like him do when the weather turns cold. We take our own good fortune so much for granted.

Sherry Ellis said...

It's sad to think about a homeless person in the cold. Hopefully he'll find a shelter - and a place to take a shower!

Dawn@Lighten Up! said...

A Buckeyes shirt? As in OSU Buckeyes? That's why he's so filthy, Pearl - he's one of our Columbus hobos. He's traveled far!

Friko said...

Perhaps he had been working in a very dirty job all night? If he had bus fare he cannot have been wholly destitute.

Did wearing a hat make you feel like passing it round?
You might have collected a few pennies for him.

I know, levity is probably the wrong reaction, I hate seeing really poor people; they make me feel mean.

Eva Gallant said...

Makes us grateful for what we have.

Joanne Noragon said...

Dirt offers a little insulation.

Like the general tenor of the replies, I have no answer except hope the shelters are adequate.

bill lisleman said...

A city the size of yours must offer shelters. I'll admit I don't know much about how they operate. I wonder if he does.

Gigi said...

Awareness gives us the vision to see what we, as individuals, need to do.

The Chicken's Consigliere said...

Hi Pearl-it gets cold here in the winter, too. Not as cold as where you are, I don't think. Still,I get anxious over it. Good post.

Diane Tolley said...

Members of our family belong to a blanket brigade - taking blankets to the homeless. And believe me, here in Canada, those blankets are needed! My son, a cop in the city, spends part of every winter day searching out the homeless and getting them into shelters.

Nancy said...

I always wonder about the story behind such a person who has obviously, well hopefully, seen better days.

Thanks so much for stopping by today. :)

Starting Over, Accepting Changes - Maybe said...

My heart always goes out to these people of the street and I wonder how they came to their situation. Worst of all, they have no one who loves them, no one to care.

HermanTurnip said...

I would hope that he travels south with the dust come wintertime, for he follows the natural ebb and flow of nature; A true compatriot of the natural world...

...or he's just a bum. I dunno. ;-)

Speaking of the homeless, how come I don't meet any "hobos"? Has hoboing gone out of vogue?

Linda O'Connell said...

Heart breaking. Usually when I see a person such as this I ask if he would like a meal. I swear if I become homeless, I will hitchhike to Florida.I don't do winter.

Jo-Anne Meadows said...

To see such a man would both give me the creeps and sadden me

Elephant's Child said...

This is so very sad. I hope the shelters are good and plentiful.

River said...

Perhaps "your" bus was just one in a series of many that will take him to warmer parts for the winter.

Kymbo Whitford said...

I feel guilty...but only for a minute! As you slip into Winter we climb slowly into Spring. Thats a good thing...right? So why do I feel sorry for taking your heat?

Perpetua said...

I think the same in the milder UK, where it's still so hard to be homeless in winter. One of my previous churches used to collect blankets every autumn and take them to the local shelter. A drop in the ocean, but every drop helps.

the walking man said...

Fairly certain he has his winter place all scouted and has already marked his territory.

sage said...

Not to make light of the poor man, but here in Michigan his downfall would be due to his sweatshirt and it wouldn't only need to be washed, it would need to be bleached (kind of like what North Carolina does when they come up here and place Michigan State in basketball).

Suldog said...

As I've told you before, a daily column by you, with humor most days and a bit of pathos some, would make me a certain subscriber to whatever paper you were in. You have THE TALENT. It is a rare gift.

Pat Tillett said...

It's a sad story anyway, but add to it the fact that most folks in that poor of condition (like this guy) are also mentally ill. To me, that is a crime.