“Helpless”

“I do not know how much longer I can last out here. It’s so cold. Every day it gets harder. The last time I had a meal was four days ago, and I can’t even remember how long it has been since I had a shower. A hot shower!  That sounds amazing right now. At least I would be warm for a while. Maybe it will get easier…..”   

In 2006 I lost my job at an automobile factory because of automation.  I was replaced by a computer!  Soon after that my wife divorced me.  We did not have any children, but she wanted some. Yes, she wanted a family, but without a steady income, she said I could not support a family. My heart was torn apart when she said it was over. Three months later all my savings were gone, and I had nowhere to go.  I tried to find another job but there were few jobs available for persons with no education past high school.  I held on as long as I could, but by May of 2007 I was homeless. All I had left was my journal and some clothes.

That summer was extremely hot and humid. What few clothes I had smelled.  I had no deodorant and no way to wash my clothes.  During the day I would dart in and out between different businesses to stay cool in that miserable heat. But the business owners did not want me or other homeless people in their stores.  We were bad for business. At night, the shelters were always full, so I was stuck on the streets. Often, I begged the shelters, “Please, just one more person, please!” They would always say, “No.”  It was almost like they did not care.  Surely, they could have taken one more person!

“Most of my clothes smell from body odor and have holes. My journal is what keeps me sane; I plan to write down all my thoughts and hope maybe one day I can look back on this journal and be grateful for all the things it teaches me. When I am really low I grab my journal from my bag and I start writing.”

“Now it’s the winter of 2008 and it’s extremely cold.  It snowed last night. My muscles ache and my stomach growls. Food is so scarce right now. It’s too cold for those nice people who bring us food and clothes in the summer to come out to help us.  Even if I had food I do not know if I could keep it down because I’m so hungry. Sometimes the man who owns the business on the corner will bring me a drink and a little food. I am very thankful for him.” 

“Everyday people walk past me like I am a criminal and I deserve to be here. Sure, some people do drugs and alcohol and mess themselves up, but I just lost my job and came on hard times. I get blank stares every time someone passes and when there are children the parents pull them into their arms or to their other side because I am ¨dangerous.¨   I look for jobs but when they ask me for my address I have to tell them I do not have one.  Then they realize I am homeless. It’s always the same after that: they tell me they are sorry but they cannot hire someone without a permanent address.” 

 “I wonder if my ex ever thinks of me?  Maybe she is remarried, has kids, who knows?  I also wonder if she knew what I was going through if she would care. Maybe so, maybe not.” 

“Tonight it keeps getting colder and colder. My whole body is numb, and I can’t feel my face. I cuddle to keep warm in the broken-down cardboard box that is my home. The air whistles a calm hmm as the darkness sets in. The snow glistens as I try to make myself sleep in this miserable cold. The wind howls a little louder as the night goes on, my fingers cannot hold the pen any longer as they are turning purple.  I have nowhere to go to stay warm.” 

“The alley I sleep in is very small. The gray buildings surround me every morning and night. It is so depressing.  Two blue dumpsters sit there so the businesses can throw out their trash.   In the summer the smell is so bad it makes me want to vomit; in the winter the rodent infestation is tripled because they are looking for food just like I am.  Sometimes drunk people come into the alley but quickly run off when they see me, the disgusting homeless guy in the corner between the dumpsters.”

I looked in my trash bag to find my journal.  I needed to write, but to my dismay my journal was missing. I kept digging in the hope of finding it. But no.  In the cold of night, tears streamed down my face. My journal was the only thing that I had left. The only thing. My identity was gone. My whole world came crashing down in that one single moment. My tears froze to my face, I knew it was not safe for me to be out in this cold but where else could I go. The next morning, my hands were blue, and I could no longer feel my body. I tried to stand up and walk around but my body went limp. I slipped on the frozen water in the alley.

For the next few hours, I kept looking, hoping to find it, praying that it would be somewhere. Business people passed by the alley and stared.  There was one woman that passed by every day and she always stared. Not once has she tried to talk to me or even acknowledge that I am a real person who has perhaps come on hard times.

The day went on as normal. I held up my sign that read, “Please help. I lost my job and I am looking for a new one. Hungry and have nothing. Please help.” Most people just stared at me or ignored me completely. Maybe one day someone will come by, read my sign, and offer me a job. Just maybe. I can hope, right?

A week passed and I still could not find my journal. I thought it would be lost forever. All my thoughts, feelings, everything was in that journal including the last 10 dollars I had. I was homeless, hopeless and alone.

The days seem to get longer and longer when it is cold. I had frostbite on my fingers and toes. I would go to the doctor but I do not have money or insurance so I could not pay. I started to feel sick. My nose was running. I thought I had a fever, and a cough was ripping through my throat like a storm.  I could not stop shivering. That day in the cold alley I could not keep my eyes open. I just could not. I thought, “Maybe it is my time to go. No one loves me anyway. My wife divorced me; my parents are dead, I have no family and no friends. So would it really be bad if I died?” These thoughts were going through my head as the businesswoman came up to me.

“Hello,” said the woman.

“Hi,” I croaked.

“Are you the man who owns this journal?” She held up my journal.

“You found it!  Yes, that is mine, all mine.” I was filled with excitement but she did not hand it to me.  She got a weird look on her face.

“I read your journal,” she said.  “I am so, so sorry. I have passed you every single day for months, and I have ignored you. Reading your journal broke my heart. I checked you out.  You are a good person.  You should never have had to go through this fight for survival. I believe you have simply had a bad luck streak,” she stated with sincere eyes.

I sit, still shivering, astonished, “You really mean that?”

“Yes, please let me help you and get you out of this cold.”

“You want to help me?  I’ve dreamed that one person would someday give me a chance.”

I stood up, hardly able to walk. She took me to her office and the warmth of the surroundings filled my body. Her office was decorated in Christmas decor and smelled of cookies and gingerbread. The red and green decorations covered the room and there was a perfect shaped green Christmas tree in the corner with lights, tinsel, ornaments, and presents underneath.

I sat down on the couch and she brought me leftover food from the fridge and hot chocolate. I ate it very quickly and she brought me blankets and new clothes. I looked at her confused.  “Why do you have all of this?”

“Because I knew I wanted to help you. You deserve the help to get back on your feet, she said.”

I looked at her with joyful tears in my eyes.  Then she spoke the most wonderful words, “I want to offer you a job.  From reading your journal, I noticed you have a real talent for writing.  I have a job open for an administrative assistant and based on your writing skills, it is just the job for you.  It doesn’t pay much but it is a job, and until you can afford a place, you can stay in the apartment we have reserved for visitors to our company.”

Tears streamed down my face. This woman who ignored me for months, read my story and was going to help me.

“Thank you,” I stuttered, still in disbelief.

“I’m now writing on the last page of my journal.  That day when the business lady brought back my journal that she found on the street changed my life forever. I now have a job, a home, and I am alive and happy all because one person took the time to believe in me. It only takes that one person. I was ready to die because I thought no one cared, that no one believed in me. I went from being helpless and homeless to being joyful and blessed,” 

“This old, worn book will always have a special place in my home because it represents the one person who was not afraid to reach out to help me.  That one person most likely saved my life.”

[Editor’s note: Sydnee wrote this for class.  Got an A.  Sometimes it’s hard to remember that this girl is only 15]

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