The Poor Man's Story

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It starts with a smile :)

Outside in chilly 45 degree weather, I was passing out my father’s massage fliers in the parking lot in quiet Stone Mountain when I came upon a homeless man walking without aim. Tall, tan, and gaunt, He idled by, eyes to the floor as though he lost something of value or perhaps the answers to life lied within the cold dead soil. I handed him a flier, thinking not of his status as I’m sure he was quite familiar with his daily reminders well enough that he honestly didn’t require my non-verbal update. He took it and I left him to his soul searching.

After about ten minutes of no passerbys , the homeless man remained in my sight, picking up what looked to be pecans freshly fallen from a nearby tree so I inquired due to an unbearable mix of curiosity and boredom. He grinned back at me, showing off a couple silver teeth in between bites as I approached.

I guess in a way I was expecting to be panhandled but that never came. Instead, my curiosity was rewarded with a shared pecan. Cold, holding only two bags to his name, he gave not a sign of desperation but a will to go forward. We met at three and talked long into the chilly evening about the story he lived. From being once a star athlete in college to his drug induced decent to darkness until finally joining the marines in a sort of valiant attempt at redemption where, after serving in the gulf war received eight bullet wounds and fell into an 18 month coma. He left the military a hero, but a pat on the back isn’t enough to overcome financial needs as his story goes on to list many triumphs only to lead towards inevitable blunders. The warm stranger spoke of each eagerly like that of a ill handled book hanging tightly to its seams. In the evening light of only a few streetlights, his face appeared to soften when he spoke each page he’d experienced.

Victory, defeat, love, loss, happiness, fear, despair, and faith; all of which he spoke retaining a smile that radiated an unyielding desire to overcome his current adversity, treating it only as a minor setback in the grand scheme. He talked of periods running successful businesses, treating me as an equal despite my young age. Being the social person that I am, the bewitching thrill of enticing conversation warmed my spirit just enough to brave the cold to hear out his tale. Homeless or not, his presence alone was enough to remind me who I was in a world that was not my own.

We talked years in the span of hours, trust in simply minutes. If given the chance, I’d like nothing more than to conquer eternity in his company so that from mountains of dust come the echoes of our conversations.

Eventually he packed his things to embark into the night for a place to stay, maintaining that metallic clad hopeful smile. When I realized whatever pre-conception I’d known as truth in regards to the homeless was false. The longer we spoke, the less foreign he felt, no different from an acquaintance, love, or stranger. Ya know I believe theres something to be said about the homeless. Poor, worn, and down on their luck with but a pocket full of sighs, they are a people of circumstance in a world that runs on cold hard cash. Treated like walking diseases, many feel like outcasts in the social chain, so much so that when you take a step back and look from the mountain tops, you can only wonder how alien these unfortunate people must feel. In the end there is no difference other than a lighter wallet. We breathe the same air, cry the same tears, and possess the same potential to love or hate. So rather than fixate on the dollars in your pocket, why not take a step back from this spellbinding cycle and make a moment to realize that every human has the innate desire to feel accepted in some rudimentary way, shape or form. To take to time to know someone is like opening a book. Their words are memories waiting to be shared to a special few. Rather than view the homeless as a living example of failure, why not offer a warm meal and some charming conversation… Chances are you may pick up a good bit of history, setting the steps to provide yourself an even greater edge when it comes to life’s ever revolving door.
In a world were financial stability is worth the sacrifice of ones individual ideals, most would’ve perceived my friend merely a stain to the eye or a stink they’d rather turn a nose to in an effort to disguise guilt from their own selfish inactivity. These days they tend to forsake their souls at the door to become another carbon copy.

My stranger shares his name with neither homeless, poor, nor any other belittling label strangers throw behind the closed doors of both lips and thoughts. He goes by Jean and through his time on the bottom, rose with knowledge owned by few. From his time in hell, Jean came back bearing a gift people I know could only dream of. It’s the ability to make nothing out into something and something into anything. And in my opinion, that is the difference between a beggar and a man that not only holds full control of his life but claims his dreams as his sight.





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