The mornings that I work downtown, I usually pass the same homeless person on my way to the office. From what I can see of him poking out from under the soiled sleeping bag on the corner, he is painfully young.
I’m not sure what breaks my heart more. The well-thumbed pages of the paperback he’s probably read a dozen times tucked under a corner of his sleeping bag. Or the gentle way a stranger, often in shabby clothes themselves, sets down money beside him. Or the wide arc most people walk around him (myself included most days).
This morning, before I left home, I grabbed an unopened granola bar. I planned to leave it beside the sleeping-bag kid, along with some change.
But today was the coldest, windiest day Toronto has seen since, well, since last winter. It’s actually snowing as I write this. SNOWING!
So it was far too cold for anyone to be camped out on a street corner. As I passed, the pavement was bare.
Then, at the end of the day, as I descended the stairs into the subway station, I heard a woman’s voice asking for change. I started to pull the change from my pocket and realized the granola bar was still there.
At the moment my hand grasped it, I swear I heard her say, “I haven’t eaten all day.” It was eerie.
What was eerier was the sight of her. My heart stopped as she turned around.
Her red hair was matted. Her sweatpants stained. Her height and build an exact match for one of my sisters. A sister who’s drifted far away from us to B.C., we don’t know exactly where.
I tried to place my coins in her paper cup but it was hard to focus. I blinked the water from my eyes and asked the lady if she’d like the granola bar. She looked puzzled but nodded.
After I walked away, I realized that’d I’d also tossed my token into her cup and needed to find another for the turnstile.
I hope she uses it to ride the rails for a while and stay out of the cold. At least for tonight.
P.S. Just in case you aren’t tired of my music links yet, this one’s pretty special.
(“Angels,” David Archuleta; Credit Bubblesark, via YouTube.)