As a foreword I live in Richmond, Virginia as a VCU student. Everyday we see homeless people all over the city and it really is such a sad sight for me. I’m thankful for what I have and don’t take anything for granted. I wish more people had that in common with me.

I met a homeless man today after hanging out with some friends and picking up a package from the post office. He was sitting outside on the stoop of some sort of building near the street I lived on. As I was walking past him I noticed there was something different about him than the other homeless and hungry people in Richmond; he wasn’t begging or drinking a beer to hide the pain. It looked to me as if he was just a man who needed a break. The man had curly, whitening hair with surprisingly nice eyes. So, I sat down next to him and asked him if he minded me asking some questions about him. I wanted to know what it was like to be homeless… how it happened to him. What was his life like and what he has to do now just to survive. He told me a lot of stories about his experiences in Richmond and what the city was like a long time ago.

To make it short, this was a man who had come out of the Navy at the age of 20, enrolled in a community college in Richmond, finished up his trade there, became a painter (for the slumlords who often over-price housing in the VCU vicinity), settled down and got married and had a kid, lost jobs left and right by the betrayal of these landlords leaving him without a family or a home at this point.

What I admire about this guy is that he hasn’t given up. He hasn’t reduced himself to begging and throwing away the only thing he really had left which was dignity and pride. He stays in a shelter home and does the chores that are required of him. He still looks for jobs and doesn’t really want to rely on anyone else to take care of him. He’s not a bad person at all from what I gathered. He just needs a break; a break I feel like I would have given him had I the resources.

After talking he stood up and I stood up as we were about to separate back two our completely different paths, he extended his arm for a hand-shake and although I felt deep empathy for this guy and felt terribly for him, the first thing that came to my mind was “His hand is probably dirty and I don’t know if I should touch it.” But, I shook his hand anyway. I have soap at home. This guy doesn’t own anything. How dare I even question getting my hand dirty when this man has been dirty for months and months.

Why do we, as the spoiled and often stuck-up college students, take so much for granted and look down upon others who have probably once in their life been in much higher positions than we have or possibly may ever reach? Are we still playing that game we played at the age of 6 involving a make-believe disease called cooties or something? Is it so difficult to extend a hand or even our ears to someone who has no one to talk to? someone who has no money, no home, no companionship? I think the least we could do is say “Hi” which can’t hurt. So what if we make eye-contact and they ask us for money….? Just say “no, sorry,” or “I don’t have any, I wish I could.” There are some of those homeless people who are not bad and they deserve more than nothing. I wish life was fair.

I walk away from the situation thinking that any of us could be reduced to living on the streets and should NEVER take anything for granted. If you’re religious, you damn-well better be thanking your maker that you were chosen to have what you have. If you are not religious, you better be feeling pretty lucky. Horrible things DO happen and leave some of the best people stranded in a sea of apathy. Today I realized how GOOD I have it and how I better cherish it before I lose it.