Reaffirmation

Last night I had tea and scones with the fabulous Rachel McPhee at a cute little place called Alice’s Tea Cup on 81st St. If you’re ever around the UES, I highly recommend it. Anyway, we had a lot to catch up on, what with my disastrous relationship that finally came to a close, and the impending court case I need to get moving on. Sipping steaming organic ginger goodness, we discussed the shocking realization that people can be SO cruel. Which, on an intellectual level, seems obvious – all the murderers, serial killers, drug dealers, violent gang members, abusive spouses, etc. in the world. But for us, it was like the heavens caving in! Two caring, compassionate, Midwestern girls suddenly confronted with the reality that even people who seem wonderful and who you let into your little world can do you great harm.

With the drama pouring out of my mouth, singeing the air with each recounted tale of his selfish, manipulative, spiteful acts against me, Rachel perked up in a moment of inspiration – “You should totally sell your story!” Brilliant. “It would solve your money problems, and people would love this kind of story, and I would want to play you in the movie!” So simple, so inspired, so… possible? We’ll see about that. But it was strangely uplifting to have one of the most talented actresses I know exclaim that she wants to play ME in a movie! Who would have ever thought that my life could be interpreted as an interesting role?? Love it. 🙂

On my way home from work tonight, I stepped onto the train and found a place to stand. All around me, people took one look at this old man sitting in one of the seats, a plastic bag containing a throw pillow and wool blanket perched on the seat next to him, and they moved away. He wasn’t particularly smelly or anything, but people seem immediately repelled by those they consider to be homeless. He likely is homeless, his hands dry and calloused, his face lined with the deep furrows of 1,000 nights spent sleeping outside in the cold. I didn’t budge. He was about 2 feet away, looking at his reflection and carrying on a lengthy conversation with the friendly face looking back at him. In Spanish, I believe. He was emaciated, his wilted silhouette obvious even through the tattered fleece and puffy jacket. Periodically he would look across to the other side of the train car and bashfully wave to his own reflection in the window. 

There was something about this man that affected me to the core. He was oddly child-like, and yet in the moment that our eyes locked – just for an instant – I could see that he possesses the wisdom of an old soul. Despite his generally worn and unkempt appearance, the scraggly salt and pepper beard, the dirty knit cap he shifted back and forth nervously on his head… his eyes exhibited a remarkable vibrancy that nearly caught me off-guard. They were so piercing, so alert. I couldn’t move. He was completely compelling. Something about this battered, weathered old man touched me – he was still SO alive. 

Reflecting on my own situation, he made me consider the notion that if he can keep that vibrancy, that vivacity under circumstances I cannot even begin to fathom, then why do we – with so many more opportunities and material possessions – collapse in anguish over comparatively trivial matters? Why do we place ourselves so far above him that we cannot even stand near him on a train? Am I the only one who saw the inherent humanity, the sense of humor, and the desire to persevere within this man?

I cannot help but wonder what brought this man to his current circumstance. Or anyone in such a situation for that matter. I can’t imagine, as children, any of these individuals sincerely saying “I want to be homeless and struggle every day of my life and be shunned by the people around me when I grow up.” What was he like as a child? Where is he from? What were his dreams and ambitions? And what are they now? Thankfully, I know I’m not the only one who considers these things. Wherever he was going, I hope that old man got there safely.

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One Response to “Reaffirmation”

  1. Katie Piekarski Says:

    Hey Jenny – next time … ask the old man sitting there how he’s doing. It will make his day. And you’re right … people are just people, no matter how they look and what they do. No one shuns the giant corporation CEO’s that have gone on wild spending sprees and had a hand in making the USA what it is right now.

    Peace and positivity – it’s the only way 🙂

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