One Friday evening, early last semester, I threw a case of beer from my fridge into my backpack and walked to the nearby bus stop. I had already had a few rum and cokes and was on my way to campus to meet some friends for the night. When I arrived at the bus stop I found a portly homeless man sitting on the bench, wrapped in a warm coat.
I greeted him and sat down. He was lubed up as well and so started talking. He spoke well and was probably one of the more educated bums around Austin. He didn’t ask for money off the bat, but soon the topic came up.
“Say man, what do you think about giving money to homeless people? Bums, you know?” He went for it.
“I don’t really give them any money. I don’t bug them though, just as long as they leave me alone.”
“Ah right, right… sure is taking a while for the bus to come.”
The conversation went somewhere else from there and I started getting thirsty. I am no way mean enough to drink a beer in front of a bum, so I reached into my bag and grabbed two. The man smiled and was happy to have a Budweiser in his hand.
Bums have a pretty objective view on things, seeing as how they don’t do shit or anything, and so we started getting pretty deep. The man was a homeless philosopher in his own right, and even schooled me on a few new ideas. He was enjoying the conversation so much that at one time he broke and asked:
“Say man, do you wanna roll a joint?”
“Sure, I’d love to, but I’ve got none.”
“Well here, roll with this.” And the man reached into his coat pocket and brought out a small bag of pot as well as a paper for rolling. This story then became that time that I smoked a joint with a homeless person.
It was soon after that when he asked me:
“Say man, do you have a house?”
“Then why do you look so sad?”
At first I thought the question wasn’t valid, as surely I didn’t look sad. But I had the right drugs in my system to take such a question, proposed by such a mangled man, very seriously. I got reflective and knew right away that I was still wanting every day, that I would look negatively on everything I had and only want more and better, more and better.
I have told that story to only a few people. In most cases it was for humor – “so there I was, and this homeless guy busts out some bud and a roll paper,” but the last time I told it was during a conversation about thinking positively, for recognizing what we have and not getting down for what we don’t have. The person to whom I told the story then told it to another friend who needed to hear it. From this connection we can draw another moral, about the hobo.
That even when we seem to have nothing, we can still give something. The bum at the bus stop has helped out non-bums, only by questioning their sadness. When we spiral down the void where we see that everything we want in life is not yet in front of us, we can still make the choice to add some value to the system. Giving out those positive signs, the smiles and the stories that can circle around and brighten people’s day.
Happy people make a difference, I know it because they make my days so much easier.