Saturday, June 30, 2007

My worthlessness

I was in Detroit yesterday for a concert at Chene Park. It would've been a great night, had it not been for something that happened (I'll get into that in a moment). The location by the Detroit River provided an incredible ambiance. The weather was just right. It was the perfect formula for a great event.

As I waited in line for the ticket collector, I took a look around at all the faces that had gathered. Though I admit that some of the ladies were bangin' that night, there wasn't really anybody in attendance who captured my attention.

Except for one person.

No more than twenty yards from me was an old man in a wheelchair. This man was obviously homeless; evidenced by his dirty and tattered appearance. Clearly, he hadn't showered or had a change of clean clothes in a while. I noticed that the man was unusually dirty; almost as if he had a mud bath just that morning. He was about as dirty as anybody I'd ever seen. But oddly, even that wasn't the real attention-getter. Above all else, what jumped out at me were his eyes. They were a deep hazel green; very similar to mine. It's not very often that I see blacks with hazel eyes that aren't store-bought. So when I do, it jumps out at me. Most of the other people around me oppositely were completely oblivious to this man; most likely ignoring him on purpose. But while he passed through, I could not take my eyes off him. Though I've been taught that it's impolite to stare, I stared. I stared hard. I watched him closely as he made his way through the traffic. He didn't stop to beg for anything. He didn't talk to anyone. He was just as oblivious to the crowd as they were to him. But I noticed him.

For the moment, I was frozen dead in my tracks. Interestingly, I didn't feel sorrow for the man. I wasn't bitter at the system that allowed for this man to wheel himself through poverty. Nor was I particularly filled with the Spirit at this point. Truthfully, I didn't feel anything at that particular moment. I just stood there watching this man motionlessly. I can't exactly explain it.


Well, that's it. That's all that happened. I guess this whole thing would've been far more profound if I did something noteworthy for him; offered him assistance, had a great conversation with him, etc. But I didn't. I just stood there watching him -- while people in line behind me were motioning for me to keep moving.

Once I snapped out of my trance, all that was left from the experience was an old man who left me feeling miserable and worthless. Usually it takes an exceptional person or thing to humble me to the point of absolute meekness, humility and reticence; like when Malik is off somewhere being righteous or when my big sister is doing something amazing. But on this occassion, it wasn't a person's high distinction that humbled me. It was a person who was drudging deep in bowel recesses of poverty, dispair, and social worthlessness that caused me to feel pathetically self-consious. Suddenly, the Kenneth Cole jacket I was rockin' wasn't as fashionable as I once thought. The floor-level seats we had didn't seem as valuable. Any success I've obtained over the years didn't seem important.

Just to clear up any confusion: I am by no means implying that being successful and enjoying the good things in life is wrong. It's just that I was amazed at how much my outlook can be affected in different situations; particularly in this case, when I'm confronted by man with no social value whatsoever. In essence, this impoverished man made me feel...well...worthless.

- ACL

21 "Insiders" spoke their mind. Join in...:

Diane J. said...

It's not my intention to judge the man who made such an impression on you one way or another, Andre, because I have no way of knowing his heart or his story. But maybe I can offer a little perspective.

My brother in law had a brother, ex military and college educated. The man chose to be homeless and live like the man you encountered. His family tried repeatedly to help Roy help himself and he would do well sometimes for months at a time, working and supporting himself at well paying jobs. But, sooner or later he would be back on the streets. He just preferred that way of life, whatever his reasons. He was very introverted and never shared his reasons for the way he lived.

He died in Knoxville, Tennessee several years ago, alone. He was doing yard work for a business owner who eventually tracked his family down several months after his death and told them what had happened. The man respected Roy so much he paid for his burial and took care of the arrangements. In Roy's belongings he found several thousand dollars which he gave to Roy's family with the few other personal effects he found.

I don't at all mean to imply that everyone chooses to be homeless, just that every one of those homeless people have a story. None of them are truly anonymous. Somebody somewhere probably loves them and wonders about them.

Like your story, mine is kind of anticlimactic, but I hope it offers a bit of perspective on your experience.

Sorry for hogging your comments. ;-)

Have a great weekend, Sir Dre!

Love and hugs,

Diane

Joslyn said...

Dre,

I continue to be amazed by how incredibly thoughtful and humble that you are. Please don't ever change.

Joslyn said...

P.S. You still get on my nerves.....

:)

I gotta say that cause you're on the phone behind me :)

Ellena said...

I think I understand what you're saying, Andre. I find myself suffering from guilt associated with being blessed undeservedly while others suffer. I see this as a terrific opportunity for us to use our blessings to bless someone else. Nice post.

Andre said...

@ Diane: You raise a good point. Just like the rest of us hustling and bustling in the world, the homeless man I encountered and the millions of them around the world each have stories. Perhaps it was the mystery behind the man that left such an impression. But it feels like more than that.

Truth be told however, I wasn't trying to make an assessment on this man or his life story, necessarily. What I found most intriguing was the fact that I was embarrassed for him to see me. I wanted to run away and hide behind a tree until the man left. If you can make sense out of that, I'll be your best friend for life. :)

@ Jos: That's way too kind of you. Thanks for that. And thanks for being you.

*Snickers* I'm behind you. *Snickers*

@ Ellena: As I stated before, I don't think that I felt as guilty as I did embarrassed. Perhaps it was because I didn't view his homelessness as "suffering". At that moment, he didn't seem to look at it that way either. He didn't have a look of dejection, he wasn't begging for anything. He just rolled away in wheelchair like he had no concerns in the world. Because of that, I can assure you that I didn't feel guilty.

KC said...

My wife and I have been to Chene Park before when we visited Detroit. We had a great time there. So the next time you feel 'embarrassed', why don't you let me run those tickets off of you?

You know who from the NYC said...

I bet you didn't know that I actually DO read your blog (though I hate the word "blog". It's SOOO annoying).

Anyway, knowing you, I think you actually envied the homeless man in a sense. Obviously, you're not envious of his position as a homeless man. But I think you're envious of the fact that he could care less how people view him. As you put it, he didn't ask anybody for handouts. He talk to anybody. He didn't even appear to notice anybody. Nothing about this man mattered and he was able to stroll around carelessly because of it.

Our lives have pretty much become about whether or not we can get married, what kind of homes we live in, what cars we drive, how many degrees we have, what types of clothes we wear, etc. Whenever we obtain something, the next man makes it his objective to get something bigger and better. We find ourselves in a vicious and perpetual cycle of trying to build up our possessions. The stress of that can be overwhelming. So when you see a man with "no social value whatsoever" who doesn't have to meet those demands, you envy him. There's nothing wrong with that. But I DO think that you should live more for YOURSELF and not for what you THINK the world wants and expects from you (i.e. "her").

That's my two cents. Take it how you want to. :P

Andre said...

@ KC: Give you my tickets?! Dude, I said I was embarrassed. I never said anything about being generous.

@ I know who: Hmmm. Never thought about it that way. But I don't think I'm as self-conscious as you you might think.

Me again said...

Yes you are.

Andre said...

No I'm not.

Me, yet again said...

Yes you are.

Andre said...

Look! No I'm not.

I can do this all day said...

Look! Yes you are.

Joslyn said...

*Whispers to KC*

Andre has imaginary friends!

HeiressChild said...

LOL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! andre has imaginary friends. LOL

You know who from the NYC said...

No disrespect intended, mi amigo but all I'm saying is that you've got a problem with your self-image when you don't need to have one. You told on yourself when you said that watching exceptional people do their thing makes you feel humble and self-conscious. That was a dead giveaway. And I think that's what happened with the man in the wheelchair. To you, the sight of homeless man who seemed pretty careless in the face of poverty and destitude made you feel embarrassed because of all the concerns you carry. Sometimes I hurt for you because you allow things and people who aren't even worth your time to get the better of you and cause you to second guess yourself. You're an amazing person. But it's no good for me, your family, or whomever else to tell you that if you don't believe it yourself.

You started off being honest with yourself with this post post. Finish it out by admitting that you're unnecessarily self-conscious and work from there.

Joslyn said...

NYC,

THANK YOU!

Andre, you ARE an amazing person who just doesn't know it.


*Damn amazing people getting on my nerves*

Andre said...

You people all suck.

Carry on.

Joslyn said...

*Shakes NYC's hand*

Congratulations! Andre doens't have a comeback!!!!

*continues thinking about Coldstones creamery*

Greeneyes said...

My Greeneyed handsome KING,

this story is close to my heart and is very sad. Your reaction is a mirror of your heart , you feel for this stranger as many just brush on by without a care or thought of this HUMAN in this condition. The sadness of it all touched you ,you have a great heart .
HUGS
greeneyes

Andre said...

@ Greeny: Thanks for your comments and your insight. Interestingly however, I don't think it was pity or remorse I was feeling. As I mentioned earlier, I wasn't sad or angry because of the man's position (though admittedly, I am starting to feel that way now). At the outset, I was actually more amazed by him than anything. I guess I felt as if he was taking the hardships of his life in stride and not standing around feeling sorry for himself or trying to garner people's sympathy. I envy that.