Art Thou That?


This morning there was a homeless man sitting on the subway platform, wearing a bright orange and white jumpsuit - a very clean, very 80's-style jumpsuit, presumably donated to him or gleaned from a drop-off bin somewhere in the city. His feet, in filthy sneakers, stuck out in front of him, tripping people as they tried to pass. As they stumbled, he'd scream profanity at them, telling them to get out of his way and watch where they were going. I was standing at the far end of the platform, listening to the TTC-employees try to decide which one of them would "deal with him". They laughed a lot. As they talked, I heard the man start screaming at some teenager who had decided to remark on the colour of his jumpsuit and his unkempt beard - "What are you, Santa Claus on Acid?" I felt tears coming to my eyes.  I can't understand why people feel the need to pick on the people least able to defend themselves.

If you pick on me, I can go home to my apartment, snuggle up in my soft blankets, wrap myself around my husband's strength. I can pick up the phone and call my friends, email someone, or call the police and feel assured that they'll appear and protect me; a young, reasonably dressed female with a job and clean hair. I can lock my door, let my dog bark loudly. When confronted, I can find the mental clarity to call you an asshole, or to ask someone to help me. But where does this man go to feel safe?

He wasn't always an old, filthy, homeless man. Maybe he's lived in the city all his life, since childhood. Maybe some days someone comes across him and with a startle realizes that he was a classmate back in elementary school - the best soccer player, or the class-clown. I imagine them backing away quickly, avoiding eye contact. 

It's scary to look into someone's eyes and realize that it could be you. 

Put aside whatever problems this man might have - psychological, addictions or a stunning lack of ability to handle finances -and he is simply a man.


- Rev. Violet

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