Friday, May 15, 2009

A Sad Life

He never owned a home of his own, but at one time he had a bed in a place he called home. He was a youngster then. As he grew up, I saw him, I attended classes with him, but I didn't know him. Perhaps I thought I was 'better' than he was. Perhaps because he didn't approach me, I didn't bother with him either in my youth and shy ways. I'm not sure he cared whether we spoke or not, and I didn't either, but, somehow, these days a thought of him arises now and then.

For years after he left school, he'd wander the streets, sometimes begging for a few bits of change. The only work I'd ever known him to do was the collecting of bottles that he'd turn in at the redemption center for the five cent deposit. Sadly, there were times when he'd be found by the police, sleeping or passed out, in the middle of the road. The officers would chase him off, or escort him to a safer place. There were a few occasions, when I worked in the village where he lived with others whose lifestyles were similar, I would see him sleeping in a doorway. My heart always sunk at such times. It seemed to me that he lived such a sad life.

Was this a way of life he followed because it was what he'd come from? Was it because, genetically, he was predisposed to a life of inebriation and poverty? Was it discouragement that put him there and kept him there? What was it that didn't allow him to rise above that way of living? I have no idea of his family life as a child. There's no knowledge in me to say why he lived the way he did. I want not to believe it was his choice. I don't want to think that he was a sluggard with no incentive to work or to try harder to escape the trap he seemed to be in.

There is no way for me to know how a little boy grew up to be such a man. It hurts me to think that the fact is, there are many in every city, who live much the same way. Does anyone see them? Do we walk by and carry on, as if these lost souls don't even exist? There they are, rummaging through garbage cans for something to eat. There they are, sleeping off a bottle, in the doorways or on the sidewalk grate. There they are, pushing their belongings along the street, on the way to their next temporary bed. Will they live this way until they leave this earth?

My schoolmate did. He will never have a chance to make another choice or work toward a better life. His circumstances were the same for him, day in and day out, until the hit and run driver ended his life. What he might have been will never be known. Such a sad life....such a sad ending.