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Derelicts, Bums, Scum of the Earth…No

A couple of weeks ago, a man who lives on the streets made eye contact with me as I strolled by him on my way to a clothing store. “Can you spare a couple bucks?” he asked. His voice shook as he spoke through sun burned lips.

The man’s thin pants and top were covered with stains and he looked like he hadn’t bathed in weeks. A heavy stench of urine hung in the air around him. His uncombed hair had no luster. His eyes were dull with the struggle of survival.

Urine is one of my least favorite odors. The rank was almost too much for my sensitive nose, but I refused to grimace or pretend I hadn’t heard his request for help. After all, in a small way, from personal childhood experiences with being abandoned by my mother, I understand what it’s like to be hungry, smelly, and poorly dressed. “How about some lunch?” I asked, motioning toward a nearby sandwich shop.

The vacant look in his eyes faded. “You mean it? You’d really buy me lunch?”

“Sure, what kind of sandwich would you like?”

“Any sort will do.” A thin smile spread across his face. “Well, what I really like is pepperoni, salami. Anything. Really, anything. Get me whatever you think.”

So, I got him an Italian sandwich, loaded with the works, and when I handed it to him, there was a glimmer of something in his eyes that I hadn’t seen before. I guess it was hope. “Thank you and God bless you,” he said.

A homeless man is a person without a home. He’s not a derelict or bum. He’s not the scum of the earth, but he is a person with inherent worth. We may not be able to change those who live on the streets. We may not be able to do anything about their situation, but we can be kind.

If you haven’t any charity in your heart, you have the worst kind of heart trouble. ~Bob Hope

Pamela Koefoed,                                                                                                                                                                                                        Author of “Joyride: Life, Death and Forgiveness.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

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